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By Giovanni Orsina (auth.)

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Extra info for Berlusconism and Italy: A Historical Interpretation

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As noted before, laws and institutions tend to be regarded as the personal property of the modernizing elite rather than a guarantee for all, and as a result any outsider political and social interest group will deny them legitimacy and try to defend itself against them or take them over. We have also seen how ideological divisiveness is increased by corrective and pedagogical programs designed to get rid of the divisiveness. However, in order to fully comprehend the importance of clans in Italian history, there are two further factors that need to be considered.

After the First World War the liberals lost their dominant position, and the Catholic, socialist, communist, and fascist parties arrived in force on the electoral and parliamentary scene. One of the main causes of the collapse of the prefascist system was the coexistence of liberal constitutional conventions, which could work only in the absence of organized mass parties, with the “party” laws that Luigi Sturzo and his Catholic People’s Party wanted to impose on Italy (Orsina 1996 and 2008). The deadlock was finally broken by abandoning the liberal camp altogether and organizing society into a single party rather than a number of different parties representing social divisions; this single party would then select the new elite, develop a new corrective project, and rebuild social unity from the top down.

Qualunquismo, as its founder, the playwright Guglielmo Giannini, interpreted it, is possibly the purest form of liberal populism that Italy has ever experienced. The only dividing line Giannini was interested in was the “horizontal” line separating the political elite, or professional politicians (for whom he used the acronym UPP; uomini politici professionali), from the common “crowd,” whom the politicians were exploiting but who did not need politicians at all, as it was entirely able to look after itself.

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