Southern European Populisms as Counter-Hegemonic Discourses? A Comparative Perspective of Podemos and M5S

  • Samuele Mazzolini
  • Arthur Borriello


The rise of new populist parties in the wake of the Eurozone crisis has raised new theoretical concerns about the context and significance of their emergence. This chapter compares the rise of Podemos in Spain and M5S in Italy through a twofold research question: To what extent do these movements pertain to the same political logic and what are their chances of impacting upon their respective political landscapes? To do so, we reflect on the context of emergence of Podemos and M5S and engage in a theoretical discussion on populism and hegemony. As for the conditions of possibility that made their appearance possible, we focus on the dislocatory effects brought about by the growing degeneration of the Spanish and Italian political systems, as well as the prolonged economic crisis that has hit Southern Europe particularly harshly. We link such phenomena to the political operations of neoliberalism, summarized under the rubrics of “restructuring” and “rescaling,” which have attempted to deny the contingent and political nature of the neoliberal order. The cracks and inconsistencies of the neoliberal project, however, have opened a window for new political subjects to disarticulate the current balance of forces by way of a populist rhetoric that pits the “people” against the “elites.” By espousing Laclau’s definition of populism, we conclude that, while Podemos and M5S certainly pertain to the same political logic—as they both represent a populist response that attempts to join a number of heterogeneous unsatisfied popular demands—a variety of circumstances have contributed to make the latter more populist than the former.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuele Mazzolini
    • 1
  • Arthur Borriello
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexColchesterUK
  2. 2.Department of Politics and International StudiesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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