Arianna Tassinari

Power or partisanship? Populist parties in power and social concertation. The case of the Italian yellow-green government, 2018-2019

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining: Public Policy; Capitalist Economies, Planning Coordination and Reform; Capitalist economies, Capitalist Institutions/Welfare States

The ascent to power of anti-system populist parties poses a potential challenge to social concertation and established systems of interest intermediation between the state and the representative bodies of organised labour and capital. Indeed, populist parties hold ideological anti-elite positions that potentially negate the role of representative «intermediate» bodies such as unions or employer organisations. But how do populist parties actually behave vis-à-vis social concertation with organised producer groups once in power? Do they stick to their ideological guns and opt for disintermediation, or do they engage in social concertation strategically, according to their power interests, as the literature on social pacts and government weakness would predict? This paper tackles this question by investigating the attitudes and practices towards social concertation of Italy’s 2018-2019 coalition government between two different variants of populist parties – the Lega and the Five Star Movement. The paper finds that upon entering government, these populist parties adopted a rather «normalised» approach towards social concertation when in power, although with distinctive traits. Under conditions of government weakness and intra-coalitional divisions, they activated channels of social concertation to achieve various «power related» objectives: to gain leverage and power vis-à-vis rival coalition partners; to appease the opposition of organized producer groups, especially employer organisations, to their policy agenda; and to gain credibility and issue ownership in policy areas deemed to be of specific social partners’ competence. Selective engagement in social concertation thus emerges as a potential channel for populist parties to achieve negative integration in the metapolitical system

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