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Populists as New Elites? A Comparison between Italy and Switzerland

Comparative Politics
Political Parties
Populism
Oscar Mazzoleni
Université de Lausanne
Manuel Anselmi
Università degli Studi di Perugia
Oscar Mazzoleni
Université de Lausanne
Andrea Pilotti
Université de Lausanne

Abstract

Despite different scientific theories and different approaches, it is now well established that populism is a form of political power that arises in opposition to the establishment. While many cases of populism on a global scale show that the populist onset is often preceded by a crisis of the elite system, that populist parties and their representative enter institutions. However, whilst some research has been done in regarding how agenda and policy-making might change with institutional entering, only a few analysis is available about representatives of populist parties in order to know to what extent they are distinctive from the mainstream parties in respect social, cultural and professional backgrounds. Thus, this paper addresses to what extent and under which conditions successful populist parties are able to provide new kind political elites. In order to answer to this question, we previously re-discuss the classical theories of the elites (Mosca, Pareto, Mills, Dahl), trying to provide some hypotheses about the current populist insurgency in Western democracies. Then, considering a diachronic and comparative sociological perspectives allowed by the current literature on political elites (Best & Vogel 2018; Verzichelli 2018), we will focus on the evolution of two very different European countries in respect of the topic, that is Italy and Switzerland. The analysis is based on the characteristics of MP’s and members of the government since the 1990s.