Hegemony versus Populism

Geminello Preterossi
Università degli studi di Salerno
translated from the italian by michela russo

* editing and publication by 17, instituto de estudios críticos

Volume 3, 2012

‘Hegemony’[1] is a term-concept that has a rich history of political and cultural effects. Nevertheless, this history might seem to be, in some respects, quite distant from us, that is, stored away in some long forgotten archive, because it is part of the politically intense and often dramatic experience we made of the great ideological movements of the twentieth century. In particular, the conscious elaboration of this concept –especially the one elaborated by Gramsci[2] –has been a constitutive element in the process of the integration of the masses in the emancipatory project of the European Left. This is a political experience and a theoretical paradigm that complicates the orthodox Marxist scheme. Forces and popular political cultures in the world (but not, significantly, in Italy) have actually continued to look at this traditional scheme with great interest, in order to go beyond structure-superstructure determinism, assuming as ‘structural’ issues the problems of the construction of consensus, of political organization, as well as that of alliances, and of the power of ideas. Today, hegemony has returned to the core of theoretical-political thought, even in the West, now facing the crisis of the neo-liberal and globalist ideologies of the spontaneous order, and the raising of consciousness as to what concerns the weakening of the categorical apparatus of the culture of the Left. This culture is puzzled by the consequences of a delegitimization of politics that characterizes contemporary democracies, above all in Europe.

From a certain point of view, hegemony can be understood as the opposite of populism, even if the problematic and generative matrix, that is, the ‘challenge’, from which both of them arise and which they seek to name, is in some respects the same. This is why, in my opinion, the attempts to get rid of populism in a procedural way appear to be illusory: to think that it is possible to get rid of it, while simply resorting to legal procedures, is misleading, because at the base of populism –which is, of course, an ambivalent and perilous phenomenon– there is somehow the question of the ‘political’ within political mass regimes, which includes contemporary democracies. This is a question that must be assumed and comprehended in its entire substantial scope, and that cannot be neutralized in a purely formal and impolitical way.

Among mass political regimes, democracies qualify themselves under the promise of conscious and autonomous participation, betting on the possibility of a progressive liberation of the human being from those constraints that are not justified and that we are not able to assume upon ourselves as proper to each individual, in relation to others. There is no guarantee that this promise is able to ever fully realize itself; it is always at risk and must always be nourished, but it constitutes both a projectural surplus-value as well as a qualitative measure for a democratic self-understanding. Power can know paradoxical forms of neo-authoritarian enhancement arising from a discourse of legitimization which is apparently ‘democratic’ (i.e., an appeal to the people, anti-elitist demagogy, discourses based on plebiscitarianism etc.), but we cannot think, even in a good quality standards democracy, that citizens do not need political identification and leadership. The problem is not, thus, that of getting rid of political power and the construction, including the symbolic construction, of consensus. It is instead about getting rid of the forms of wielding ‘mass’ power and its limited or absolute character, its good reasons and its capability of legitimizing its grasp of the social, and the model of subjectivity that this power carries (whether made passive or civically active, homologated or open to the plurality of life projects).

The ‘Political’ [il Politico] synthesizes a series of hypothetical or functional constants: that is, the relationship between power and obedience, the persistence of the distinction between governors/governed and, consequently, the decisive role of the governing class, including within democracies, the nexus between order and conflicts and the challenge internal to rights represented by the phenomenon of hostility and its deforming drifts, the construction of legitimacy and the function of ‘material’ support (including support for constitutional equilibriums) that such a substratum performs. This complex dimension of the ‘Political’ does not disappear at all from the horizon of democracies. If we were to think that this dimension could disappear or if we were to try to remove it, we would probably risk not only not understanding certain opaque tendencies pertaining to contemporary democracies, but also run the risk of remaining puzzled and of being subjected to a harsh nemesis.

How can we understand hegemony in the context of constitutional democracies, that is, thus, in a sense different to the ‘revolutionary’ one? Hegemony is not only the ‘force which creates consensus’, according to its classic formulation, but it can also be intended in a softer sense, as a recognized point of political-institutional equilibrium, and thus as an ability to individuate the forms which allow, in an organized and collective way, the expression and the regulation of behaviors and attitudes of different subjectivities which are ‘in relation’. That is, it is not only a culturally dense way of taking the politicization of subjectivities seriously, while accepting their symbolic dimension, but also of making them reciprocally compatible: the space of ‘democratic’ hegemony creates the possibility of explaining a plural and conflictive political body of experiences [vissuto politico plurale e conflittuale], as well as the possibility of it being ‘shaped’ through an integrative narrative, which is the premise of institutional mediation itself.

The reconstruction of a partial ordering of subjectivities ‘in relation’ is, today, an essential passage towards avoiding the ‘immediate’ welding between a new social homogenizing atomism and a ‘seductive’ neo-authoritarian power, where individuals, which are presumed to be ‘free’ and unrelated dots that make up society, can find a compensative mirror, fictionally unifying them.

If State power –which has increasingly become a kind of administration and ‘government’, where often the public ‘hand’ and private interests are intermingled– is confronting individuals without the mediation of intermediate bodies, this can result in a collision or –and this is more worrying– in a general flattening which transforms the citizens into a big flock needing to be pastured. In this way, State power opens on to a growing sense of political extraneousness, or to a compliant adherence to a Leader’s decision who thinks –and even ‘enjoys’– in place of us. These are both deleterious tendencies for a democracy which wants to accomplish those minimal qualitative standards –in terms of informed participation and effective pluralism– which prevent them from an internal emptying of themselves.

The reconstruction of an internal ‘membrane-structure’ [‘membratura’][3] of civil structure (Gliederung, in Hegelian terms), is not only an organizational challenge (which is nevertheless important), but it is first of all a problem concerning ‘ideological power’. This implies a political capacity for elaborating symbolic and projectural contents, beginning with a realistic reading (but not subaltern in relation to the Right wing reading) of what happens in Italian society.

We need to sort out a misunderstanding regarding political realism: this surely represents something that cannot be eliminated, because it expresses a series of ties which are also decisive for democratic politics (namely, the persistence of the distinction between governors/governed and of the role of the governing classes, the phenomenon of hostility, the inescapable question of power and of power relations, the paradoxes of equality and universality of rights, the limits of the processes of law making, the constant resurgence of identitarian issues, etc.). But this realistic dimension cannot be understood as a sort of eternal essence of politics, which condemns even democratic discourse, as well as all emancipative promises of modernity, as being a mere rhetorical cover-ups for an immutable structure of any given order. Otherwise, all political seasons and experiences would be substantially the same, and this is actually contradicted by the objective transformation of the conditions of life and of the political integration of the subaltern classes, phenomena which occurred in those places where the democratic rule of law has been realized, occurring not by accident, but rather only by means of harsh social and ideological struggles.

Hence, on the one hand, one can conceive of those bonds in terms of lessons to learn, which can find different mediations –sometimes moderate, others more advanced, allowing forms of ‘partial liberation’– and which can always menacingly become a tool for a ‘politics of the elementary’ [politica dell’elementare], aiming to simplify the political scene and to reduce participation. On the other hand, it is possible to think that there is a destiny at stake, which it is not possible to elaborate politically, and which always calls for answers in terms of dominance, beyond all different appearances. The Left wing inevitably bets on the possibilities of transformation that the artificial conception of modern politics entails, which represents the inerasable legacy of the Left wing itself, even when its assumptions are suffering times of crisis. This is what is called for again today: indeed, the Left wing, by not losing its identity and attractive force, should turn back to believing in this rational ‘constructability’ [‘costruibilità’] of the ‘life in common’, and in the possibility of ‘new’ integrations not based on a traditionalist regression. The Right wing considers the principle of hierarchy and the presumed substantial ‘naturality’ of the human being, the only possible source of order, against the constant challenge of chaos inherent in modern subjectivity. The fact that has most recently come to light (even if in some way it had already been anticipated by the ‘reactionary modernism’ of the twentieth century) is that the populist Right wing gains credit as looking brand new and being in tune with the present times, as it has an individualistic and traditional character at the same time, that is, enhancing the self-interested naturalness of subjects which are unrelated, self-made entrepreneurs and free consumers, indifferent to the public interest but in need of symbolic and protective fortresses.[4]

The notion of hegemony is not only relevant within political party practices and in the construction of consensus, but also with respect to other more integrative and general dimensions, which are in fact less ‘partisan’. The constitutions themselves, indeed, presuppose in the end a kind of cultural hegemony. That is, a kind of ‘civic spirit’, a common feeling regarding a number of fundamental principles, which are not derived from the above and, thus, are not perceived as abstract and are not very relevant in everybody’s life. It is, rather, a matter of memory and lived experiences, which are stable conditions of recognition because they are socially mediated and constantly nourished by public discourse.

It is not an accident that the real reason why the Italian Constitution is experiencing a crisis (and that there is someone that permits himself to undergo the project of actually subverting it), is that it has been subjected to a serious process of delegitimization, which has, first of all, a cultural character, and whose responsibility is borne not only by the intellectual world, but also by Left wing politics. A constitution does not stand up without pre-juridical assumptions, such as, first of all, the popular recognition which underpins it, as well as innovating political cultures that, despite their different identity and project, nourish such a ‘constitutional’ hegemony.

Certainly, the concept itself of ‘cultural hegemony’ is a political one, but at the same time it refers to processes which are strongly fostered by pre-political resources, which adhere, particularly, to the qualities of widespread popular culture (to whose reproduction, television and various forms of pop culture, such as cinema and music, contribute), and of public debate (that is influenced by the latter). Hence, the possibility of constructing ‘hegemonies’, and thus their different configurations, refers, as we mentioned above, to the general ‘civic spirit’ of a given political community. This is to be understood, however, not so much (or not only) with reference to the so-called ‘reflective middle-class’, but also looking at what stirs in the ‘belly’ of the society (which implies a ‘civic’ sense, sometimes civil, other times not): it is on such a ‘leading’ terrain, composed of a confrontation with reality, the capability of constructing social alliances, the selection of concrete interests and the proposal of credible watchwords, that the effective and the ‘reflective’ middle-classes might encounter one another. This might occur with the indispensable aid given by a ‘different’, because autonomous and not subaltern, politics: that is, by a politics that should, first of all, propose an important project of the Country’s cultural requalification, involving all possible levels, from scientific and academic research (the ‘high’ knowledge), to television audiences, public spaces and places of ‘critical’ formation that should be reconstituted.

Beyond the different degrees of political intensity (between political parties and movements, on the one hand, and institutions, on the other), cultural hegemony is therefore –we must repeat– something similar to that which holds up constitutions, which are not based on a lack, because they are not empty. In the Italian Constitution, for example, a fundamental political orientation (which is thus not instrumental or particularistic, but it has a general value, see Article 3 of the Italian Constitution)[5] has been lodged, which, on the one hand, is the result of the living memory of cultural and constitutional traditions, and, on the other hand, always needs ‘bearers’. It is not by accident that the father of the Italian Constitution is Costantino Mortati, who, via his concept of ‘constitution in a material sense’ (which was functional during the epoch of mass political regimes and during the new mediation between society and State)[6], grasps the centrality –a centrality which functions in respect to the constitutional decision and its integrative potentialities– of ‘determined forces’. These forces are characterized by a socio-cultural and political double nature, which are ‘bearers’ of principles and orientations which are at the base of ‘order’.

There is a fact that must be stated with clarity, even in the face of the current crisis of representation and the current post-democratic transformations which lead some people to look for post-or anti-political short cuts, thus underestimating the risks of breaking up the given order and of the re-hierarchization of this society. Both of these risks are an inherent part of a general depoliticization: this means that there is no democracy without political parties. The alternatives (i.e., faith in the economy as a process of the spontaneous regulation of human sociality, or the shelter found in religion as an identitary fortress), are both illusory (because they do not produce order but only new absolute hostilities), and also delineate a world radically unfair and incompatible with the normative heritage of Modernity: the autonomy of subjects and the concrete possibility of freely constructing one’s own life projects, that is, what is civilly possible only in a context of being in relation with others. This context implies ‘vessels’ of meanings and actions which would assume the ‘public sphere’ as its proper terrain, and not a politics which assumes and fosters, or undergoes, the privatization of the ‘symbolic’. ‘Natural’ freedom and neo-traditionalisms, non-masterable ‘animal spirits’ and the proliferation of new ‘barriers’,[7] are all the inevitable paradoxical phantasms of this post-political dream, which bets on the passive consensus of the individual as atoms. The life of those individuals is directed towards consumption and an hypnotic narcissistic self-referentiality, which is mediated by fiction[8] (whose logic not only pervades the media, but also all possible fields) and is apparently ‘liberating’ (e.g., the myth of the self made man). This fiction is actually functional to a “gently” authoritarian re-displacement of power (here referring to every kind of power: within general labor relations, in the pretension of ‘governing’ bodies, in the use of institutions, in the weakening of the guarantee of rights, in the diffusion of a regressive imaginary).

Although it may seem paradoxical, hegemony does not require an elitist and hierarchical assumption, it does not point to the mere persistence of ‘dominion’ and to the irrelevance of ‘derivations’, as Pareto would say (this would be a reductionism, which the subjectivity spurred by the discourse of democratic legitimization would also be destined to be subjected to, perhaps through new rhetorical strategies, apparently anti-elitist). To play hegemonic politics card means to think that there can be forms of different civil quality (i.e., active or passive, emancipative or regressive), of the channeling of both consensus and ‘representation’ (which identifies ethical interests and meanings). Populism points to a political infantilization, treating the citizens as a credulous people that must be flattered, distracted, appeased, in order to reify the eternal and immutable law of ‘dominion’, thus translating it into a ‘popular’ language. Hegemonic politics needs a certain dose of emotional involvement; it is perfectly aware of the political role played by symbols and passions, but only in the horizon of a project of the rational government of society, implying the recognition of conflict, the construction of alliances on the basis of concrete social needs emerging from below, and the assumption of a general responsibility with respect to the whole political community. From this interpretative perspective, to be hegemonic means to be capable of forging a political synthesis, of critically articulating social differences, and of producing consensus, as well as of taking unpopular decisions. When populism fills a lack of hegemony, it seems that it heals this lack over using a compensatory logic. What actually happens is, rather, that populism makes partisan reasons and the self-awareness of political community pay a high price, sacrificing the quality of democracy and its long-term interests in favor of the stabilization of a system of (personal) power. Hegemony is exercised within civil society, thus presupposing an articulated space of action completely aware of itself. Populism flattens and undermines these actions. Hegemony is a form of connection, symbolically dense, between society and institutions, subjects and a collective dimension. Populism jumps such a mediation, establishing a direct relationship between the Leader and his followers. Populism is a fictional hegemony. As Ernesto Laclau maintains in a controversial book (and perhaps excessively indulgent with populism, which, however, has the merit of investigating its genealogical ‘reasons’ without getting rid of populism itself)[9] , the logic of the ‘two bodies’ of the king –the physical one and immortal one– does not disappear in democracy. This logic reborn from within the ‘hegemonic force’.[10] Beyond the specific configurations of legitimate power, the need for identification in a unifying symbolic vertex, and the push to legitimize expectations for the production/manifestation of this logic, are genetic-constitutive traits pertaining to every political group. The fundamental matrix of order, especially when considered as a human ‘construction’, is that ‘political energy’ coming from below from which, in the last instance, legitimacy arises as a realistic and effective element. No order can withstand without legitimacy. And this is not because of ‘moral’ reasons, or external and abstract judgment, but because of a lack of internal recognition. That is, a kind of political recognition in which expectations and conflicting instances, as well as needs for protection and desires of fulfillment converge, which might have opaque or irrational traits, and which requires a ‘subject of the imaginary’ in which it can mirror itself.

To have removed the question of legitimacy, claiming that it might have been completely resolved in legality, has been a particularly dangerous political error with respect to constitutional democracies. The latter certainly have legal procedures at their core, but they also are bearers of an ethical and political inclusive ‘surplus value’, which corroborates and reaffirms its proper social meaning with respect to legal procedures. In this way, too, the political action of the ‘subjects’ of democracy (that is political parties, trade unions, social and cultural movements, etc.) cannot but exhaust itself in the formal play of rules (that must in any case be defended). This political action should come into contact with that political energy symbolically marked by the ‘people-construction’ (this is particularly true in the case of a discourse of democratic legitimization), and at the same time it should be able to express and guide this energy, channeling it in institutions, selecting its needs and values, but also being in tune with it as a credible interlocutor with respect to real instances.

Carl Schmitt in his Constitutional Theory [Verfassungslehre, 1928] had effectively gathered the function, at once energetic-mobilizing and theologico-political, inscribed in the modern concept of the people. Beyond the risks and the tendentious uses (from the perspective of the politics of law) inherent in Schmittian positions, what matters theoretically is the conceptual radicality that allows him to understand the identity-representation nexus, which structures democratic legitimacy and the impulse to political self-transcendence that the use of the concept of the people activates and makes evident. Not surprisingly, under certain circumstances, the power ‘from below’ –or rather the power that creates a short circuit between ‘high’ and ‘low’– can be much more intense, pervasive and charismatic than the traditional one.

As long as the discourse of legitimacy inaugurated by absolute sovereignty was working, the concentration of transcendence, political energies, power and people in a visible, physical subject was evident (that is, the king is the people, as Hobbes says in De Cive). But when, with the French Revolution, this link comes to be broken, inaugurating another logic that assumes and reverses the logic of sovereignty, the fact that the ‘political’ is produced by citizens, on the basis of an original challenge becomes explicit (and is not just a ‘heuristic-justificative’ intellectual experiment). After all, democracy does nothing other than lead to the most extreme consequences of the contractualist hypothesis, according to which order is a voluntary and rational construct.

The aporia of democratic sovereignty is that it incorporates verticality, that is, the political transcendence inherent in modern sovereignty, but it also aims to invert its direction (that is, from the bottom to the top). That is say that, on the one hand, this precisely makes explicit the stream of legitimation that, after all, always derives from the people as the necessary element of order, while radicalizing its generative function. On the other hand, the institutionalization of such an inversion of the political circuit (again, from bottom to top), entails difficulties and aporias, because it is as if the originality of power (which unifies while transcending) would always tend to resurge, perhaps in different and hidden forms, escaping the democratic overturn/fulfillment of the ‘political body’ of the Leviathan.

Democracy, that is, the government of the people, does not mean that everybody can be ‘present’ and able to lead. It rather indicates a tendential line, an instance of emancipation and liberation from arbitrariness, that is, of the ‘regeneration’ of power (which, of course, can always be a criterion for criticizing existing power, even if ‘democratic’). Hence, what has completely changed is the way of narrating the political order, that is, to ‘come to an agreement’ with the consociates. This is not about rhetoric or propaganda (which are not sufficient in the long run), it rather concerns the ability to recognize ourselves in politics.

Even once ‘narration’ (centered on the people as the subject that builds for itself its own order) has been affirmed, we do not get out of the dialectic between identity and representation. The people is an identity, or, better said, it fictitiously constitutes itself as an identity through a predominant representation. But it also needs to be represented, so that this political existence, that is, this self-identification, would be able to be visible and thus acquire an effective predominance. This means that what is at stake here is not an ethnic element, but rather a voluntaristic one: elements of linguistic, cultural, historical, etc., affinity could and probably must come forth, but they are not in themselves sufficient enough to produce a conscious political existence, and, in this sense, a self-recognition (which always involves a voluntaristic gap and the assumption of a risk). In this way, the identity (of the people) is a presupposition that can be assumed and made politically expendable only from the perspective of a representative (hegemonic) dynamic in actuality. The latter, in turn, should take a hold of that realm of passions and reasons, interests and partisan interests, that potentially constitute a ‘political subjectivity’ –that is, it should intercept those pre-political dimensions from which an eventual political productivity could arise and try to mobilize a process of aggregating integration capable of producing a ‘people’. In some respects, identity and representation reciprocally produce themselves.

As Schmitt evocatively affirms, to represent means to present an absence, that is, to express a ‘fullness without community’. It is actually true that, in some ways, a community comes forth (even only as a functionally necessary and productive ‘fiction’), but it is never fully realizable, it is never present, and, nevertheless, it constitutes the energetic source from which legitimacy springs. Schmitt never wanted to situate his work on the level of ethical and political motivations, the dynamics of integration, the concrete creation of streams of consensus supporting that energy (that is, on the level of hegemonic processes and their normative contents). This fact is due to certain assumptions regarding the role of jurisprudence and of the jurist, and due to a radical lack of confidence in the potentiality of social integration inherent to pluralist democracies (especially in the light of the success of the constitutional States of Law in the ungenerous and ideological Europe of the second postwar period). This is, undoubtedly, his limitation, which, nevertheless, should not prevent us from applying certain Schmittian analyses and categories in a different context, that is from a horizon of deconstruction or of contamination.

For instance, Schmitt puts the concept of representativeness/representations (Räpresentation, and not Vertretung) through a tension that shows how ‘democratic’ power is pushed, for structural reasons, towards the acquisition of maximum visibility and the reproduction of a form of verticality: “representativeness is neither a normative fact, nor a process, nor a procedure, it is rather something existential. To represent means to make visible, and to illustrate an invisible being through a being which is publically present. The dialectic of the concept consists in the fact that the invisible is presupposed as absent and at the same time it is made present. This is not possible with any kind of being, but it presupposes a particular species. Something dead, something rough or worthless, something low, cannot be represented. It is lacking the developed species of being which is capable of making a progression in the public being of a given existence. Words such as grandness, greatness, majesty, glory, dignity, and honor try to gather the peculiarity of this enhanced being capable of representation. That which serves only private businesses and interests, can be delegated (…) In representativeness, on the contrary, an higher species of being concretely manifests itself.”[11]

On the one hand, the Schmittian discourse could seem to be out of fashion (as it focuses on a sense of national unity and on the surplus value of authority), but, on the other hand, it shows us something of a great actuality, which has been retranslated in the context of mass media democracies (certainly more light, but perhaps not necessarily mild and reassuring). Some examples of this retranslation are: the visibility of power (now also in its ‘private’ aspects), or the short-circuit between representation and identification, which can be determined by the feeling of being ‘enhanced’ by the ‘power which represents’, in other words, ‘compensated’ in one’s own quality, in the sense that the subject of representation, that is, that image that ‘expends’ and ‘offers’ itself, is visible basically because someone else can mirror himself in it. It is as if that subject were to say: you are me, and through me you are better. Relying on a power capable of ‘representation’ makes us feel elevated; this is what ensures a symbolic return, a paradoxical gratification that deprives real power, but restores a sense of belonging and the illusion of being attracted into the sphere of visibility. Representativeness, thus, should not be simply understood as a projection in the institutions of collective instances, but, first of all, as a mise-en-scène of the common imaginary, that is, the one which is in power, as well as the one pertaining to the subjects that identify themselves in it. Moreover, in the passage above reported, Schmitt also effectively reminds us that the experience of the ‘political’ has its proper specificity and intensity. It is a form of ‘existence in public’, which differs from the summation of ‘private’ and impolitical interests and particularities: representativeness and democracy presuppose such a ‘public sphere’ (Öffentlichkeit) and a kind of prevalent orientation, without which they inevitably perish.

To avoid this need for ‘representation’ (which is so ambivalent, as well as empowering and capable of originating political productivity) being exploited in an anti-political and authoritarian manner, a hegemonic response should be found. This kind of response, which is politically dense, cannot but be the result of a mediation, as well as of a decision, of a working upon intermediary bodies, as well as a reflection able to propose a mobilization of collective identities. All of this takes place without seeking imitative short-cuts, but also without closing oneself in ritualities and self-referential games (which fail politically) whilst, nevertheless, trying to reappropriate, with proposals able to symbolically force the imaginary, keywords such as: freedom (as the autonomy of life projects, understood as being caught in relations), work (in all its forms, not only the traditional ones), and equality (as a fundamental anti-discriminatory criterion and instrument of social justice for everybody, migrants included). To reconstruct a democratic hegemony today, means to elaborate a social narration different to the one proposed by the right wing, which would be neither elitist nor subaltern.


01. On this theme, I will simply mention a few recent publications: Ernesto Laclau, and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, II ed., London-New York, Verso 2001; Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoy Zizek, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left, London-New York, Verso 2000; Peter D. Thomas, The Gramscian Moment: Philosophy, Hegemony and Marxism, Leiden, Brill, 2009; Mark McNally, and John Schwarzmantel (eds.), Gramsci and Global Politics: Hegemony and Resistance, London, Routledge, 2009; Aldo Schiavone, L’Italia contesa. Sfide politiche ed egemonia culturale, Roma-Bari, Laterza 2009.

02. See Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks (three volumes), New York, Columbia University Press, 2007.

03. The Italian word ‘membratura’ refers to the shape or form, and to the arrangement of human or animal limbs, taken as a whole, as well as, in architectural terminology, referring to an element or combination of elements that constitute a structural or decorative unit [T.N.].

04. See Carlo Galli, Perché ancora destra e sinistra?, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2010.

05. Article 3: “Tutti i cittadini hanno pari dignità sociale e sono eguali davanti alla legge, senza distinzione di sesso, di razza, di lingua, di religione, di opinioni politiche, di condizioni personali e sociali. È compito della Repubblica rimuovere gli ostacoli di ordine economico e sociale, che, limitando di fatto la libertà e l’eguaglianza dei cittadini, impediscono il pieno sviluppo della persona umana e l’effettiva partecipazione di tutti i lavoratori all’organizzazione politica, economica e sociale del Paese.” [“All citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions. It is the duty of the Republic to remove those obstacles of an economic or social nature which constrain the freedom and equality of citizens, thereby impeding the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organisation of the country.”] [T.N.].

06. See Constantino Mortati, La Costituzione in senso materiale, reprinted edition with an introduction by Gustavo Zagrebelsky, Milano, Giuffrè, 1998.

07. On this topic see Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, New York, Zone Books, 2010.

08. English in the original [T.N.].

09. This is a tendency which is rather present in some interpretations, such as the one by Y. Meny, who understandably underlines the threats inherent in populism and defends the necessity of balancing powers. He risks, however, not grasping the very reasons of populism’s success and its effective political root, underestimating the symbolic function of the concept of the people, see Yves Mény, and Yves Surel, Par le peuple, pour le peuple, Paris, Librarie Arthème Fayard, 2000.

10. See Ernesto Laclau, On Populist Reason, London, Verso, 2005.

11. “La rappresentanza non è né un fatto normativo né un processo né una procedura, ma qualcosa di esistenziale. Rappresentare significa rendere visibile e illustrare un essere invisibile per mezzo di un essere che è presente pubblicamente. La dialettica del concetto consiste nel fatto che l’invisibile è presupposto come assente ed è al tempo stesso reso presente. Ciò non è possibile con qualsiasi specie di essere, ma presuppone una specie particolare. Qualcosa di morto, qualcosa di scadente o privo di valore, qualcosa di basso, non può essere rappresentato. Ad esso manca la specie sviluppata di essere che è capace di una progressione nell’essere pubblico di un’esistenza. Parole come grandezza, altezza, maestà, gloria, dignità e onore cercano di cogliere questa particolarità dell’essere accresciuto e capace di rappresentazione. Ciò che serve solo agli affari ed interessi privati, può essere delegato… Nella rappresentanza invece si manifesta concretamente una specie più alta di essere”, in Carl Schmitt, Dottrina della costituzione, trad. it. a cura di A.Caracciolo, Milano, Giuffrè, 1984, p. 277 [Translation from Italian is my own, T.N.].

Works Cited

  • Brown, Wendy, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, New York, Zone Books, 2010.
  • Butler, Judith, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoy Zizek, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left, London-New York, Verso 2000.
  • Galli, Carlo, Perché ancora destra e sinistra?, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2010.
  • Gramsci, Antonio, The Prison Notebooks (three volumes), New York, Columbia University Press, 2007.
  • Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, II ed., London-New York, Verso 2001.
  • __________, On Populist Reason, London, Verso, 2005.
  • McNally, Mark, and John Schwarzmantel (eds.), Gramsci and Global Politics: Hegemony and Resistance, London, Routledge, 2009.
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