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Intra-party agonism and post-merger identification within the 2009 Italian Democratic Party primaries campaign.

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Abstract

Parties mergers and schisms are escalating phenomena within the Italian political arena, epitomizing factionalism, intra-group processes and sub-group identifications. Specifically, mergers depict an integration phase where still relevant sub-groups identities dispute over the common identity. Reading the Mouffe’s model of ‘agonistic pluralism’ (2005) in the light of the Social Identity Approach (Tajfel, Turner, 1986), this paper focuses on the collective identity of the Democratic Party, the main Italian centre-left party originated in 2007 from a merger of various left-wing and centrist parties. Using discourse and content analyses this study qualitatively explores the manifold modes of identification and the contents of collective identity categories, outlined through the speeches given by the Democratic Party candidates during the 2009 primaries campaign. Psychosocial processes as dis-identification, conflicting or ambivalent identification, super-ordinate identification and ingroup projection emerging from the analyses explain the complexity of the post-merger political identity. Despite a growing literature on organizational mergers, political mergers remains poorly understood. Nevertheless the intra-party ‘us vs them’ dynamics occurring in post-merger integration can elucidate the coalescence of consensus and dissent and the ''cooperative'' agonism that lie at the heart of the Italian Left identity. In this direction the implication of my findings might provide a productive framework to discuss both the post-political paradigm – with reference to the centrality of identity issues – and a reductionist idea of agonism – with reference to the multifaceted and dynamic nature of party identification and political identity.