Active citizenship in the anti-politics era

by Vagnarelli, Gianluca, Lecturer at the Department of Political Sciences,University of Macerata (Italy)

As Andreas Schedler wrote, we live in antipolitical times [Schedler, 1997]. Anti-politics is not new in the history of Western thought, but today it seems to become hegemonic. Since the beginning of the nineties of the twentieth century, anti-politics has become the true ideological heart of the post-ideological era. Anti-politics is a difficult concept to define, for two reasons. First, because it is used to describe different things and this fact caused growing uncertainty around its semantic content. Second, because the anti-politics is a concept that is defined by derivation from “politics”. The meaning of anti-politics changes when the meaning of politics changes: anti-politics is the shadow of politics [Truffelli, 2008]. In western democracies the theoretical and political discourse on citizenship reflects the anti-political climate of our times. On the one hand, that means crisis of confidence in political institutions and intermediary bodies, increasing levels of electoral abstention and a general political passivity [Flinders, 2014]. On the other side, that means citizens who claim direct participation in public life, in order to overcome barriers against their participation in political decision-making, starting with political parties [Allegretti, 2010]. From this point of view, the experience of the Italian Five Star Movement, become the second largest party in the general election of 2012, may be an interesting case study. The main axes of the (anti) political discourse of the Five Star Movement concern in fact the refusal of any form of proxy (rejection of the free representational mandate and the idea of political representation, rejection of the traditional political party with its vertical form of organization, rejection of the culture of leadership) [Grillo, 2013] and, in parallel, the investment in the online civic engagement platforms as a new form of horizontal political community. The discussions around limits and contradictions of this process reflect some of the classical topics about the history of political citizenship.

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