Berlusconi's Italy: Mapping Contemporary Italian Politics

Berlusconi's Italy: Mapping Contemporary Italian Politics

Berlusconi's Italy: Mapping Contemporary Italian Politics

Berlusconi's Italy: Mapping Contemporary Italian Politics

Synopsis

Since 1994, Italian politics has been dominated by the larger-than-life figure of Silvio Berlusconi. Blending discussion of personalities, parties, and policies with detailed geographical analyses, this book provides innovative insight into Berlusconi's career. Berlusconi's Italyprovides a fresh, thoroughly informed account of how Italy's richest man came to be its political leader. Without dismissing the importance of personalities and political parties, it emphasizes the significance of changes in voting behaviors that led to the rise-and eventual fall-of Silvio Berlusconi, the millionaire media baron who became prime minister. Armed with new data and new analytic tools, Michael Shin and John Agnew reveal that regional politics and shifting geographical voting patterns were far more important to Berlusconi's successes than the widely credited role of the mass media. Shin and Agnew reject the prevailing orthodoxy about how coalitions are organized and replaced in Italy. Instead, using recently developed methods of spatial analysis, they offer a compelling new argument about contextual re-creation and mutation. They conclude that Berlusconi's success (and later defeat) can be best understood in geographic terms, and they suggest that geographical analysis has a useful role to play in examining political behavior in Italy and beyond.

Excerpt

Italy experienced a political watershed in the early 1990s when the old system of parties collapsed and was subsequently replaced. With the new reg ime emerged several novelties, such as new parties and electoral alliances on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. Perhaps the most notable outcome was the emergence of Italy's wealthiest man, Silvio Berlusconi, as the indispensable focus of Italian politics, both positively and negatively, from 1994 until 2006. Neither Berlusconi's rise to power nor his recent 2006 electoral defeat have met with many detailed empirical analyses of how his and the other organized political forces replaced the old parties. Without neglecting the personal role of il Cavaliere (or “the Knight,” as he is known and likes to be known), our spotlight falls much more on the geographical dynamics of popular support (or “followership”) for the various political factions, particularly on the center-right, to better understand how Berlusconi could assume such a central role in Italian politics.

The conventional story of how Silvio Berlusconi came to power and turned Italy into his fiefdom revolves around his control and use of the main private television networks. We challenge this story as . . .

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