lug 11, 2017
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Commenti disabilitati su A FRENCH LESSON? ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!

A FRENCH LESSON? ITALIANS DO IT BETTER!

my article published by RadiX: Think Tank for Radical Centre

In the UK and continental Europe, we discuss the French election as if we were all French. Likewise, in June we will be British and in September we’ll turn into Germans. Such an interest in other countries’ politics is unprecedented. Whether we like it or not, Europeans share a single political and economic system: the EU matters a lot in reality and symbolically. Even for a UK on its way out of the EU, politics and economics in Europe continue to matter. Diversities among western European countries have become less relevant and more occasional. But differences within countries are growing dramatically. One of these differences is, in fact, the growing conflict in most countries between EU supporters and neo-nationalists. To make our political systems work, it is essential to find a relationship between the two conflicting positions.

EU supporters divide into two factions. Some represent the well-established Eurocracy refusing any possible reform. Their goal is making the system work as it is. Others consider the possibility to change some EU laws and institutions without overthrowing its basic foundations. Macron backs (or is backed by) the first faction; the Italian government (and the Democratic Party leader Renzi) embodies the second option. Notwithstanding Brexit, ironically May is closer to Macron than to Renzi. The clean break caused by the 2016 referendum has created an all-or-nothing situation: Brexit will not affect the financial and global relations between the EU and the UK all that much. But will weaken the call for reform of the political and social institutions. 

In the Hirschman’s scheme of “Exit, Voice and Loyalty”, the British demonstrated no loyalty to the EU and preferred a hasty “exit” to being a powerful “voice” for change. The bad news is that they did not take any responsibility and gave up engagement for some viable reform. Good news, if any, is that they proved that it is quite possible to reject the current situation. Other countries’ following suit is therefore a real risk.

Unlike France, in Italy the Democratic Party still plays a pivotal role in politics, while Macron had to found, overnight, a one-man party to give the old establishment a safe chance to win.

Among the anti-Europe populists there is the less-educated, old, violent and racist faction. But there is also a more open-minded, utopian and intellectually developed faction. The latter also threatens the conservatives by waving the EU exit option, but in fact they use it as pressure for reforms. From this point of view Italy can teach France a lesson. The angry and old fashioned populism of Le Pen/Salvini, inspired by a neo-fascist heritage, is limited by the visionary and environmentalist populism of the 5Stars Movement which is not nationalist but loudly calls for a reform of European institutions. It’s up to the Italian Democratic Party to choose either Le Pen/Salvini or 5Stars as its major competitor. If it chooses Salvini, Italy would follow the French radical option; otherwise it would be possible to create the conditions to reinforce both the Democratic Party’s and the 5Stars Movement’s roles in a new dialectic which can gradually drive toward a new Europe.
It’s not surprising that ALDE initially admitted the 5Stars representatives into their EU Parliamentary group. Unfortunately, the French members of ALDE opposed, hence this opportunity vanished. ALDE would have found a strong ally for reform EU and would have contributed to a positive evolution of 5Stars. 

ALDE, however, preferred a sharp contrast along the lines of the Macron-Le Pen dialogue between two deaf persons. The “old is dying and the new cannot yet be born. In the interim, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”: this is what Gramsci wrote just a few years before Fascists and Nazis took over and Stalin had already established a totalitarian government in the Soviet Union. In those same years, British and American governments tackled the crisis by applying Roosevelt’s New Deal and Keynesian policies. Without revolutionary and subversive demagoguery, progressive governments succeeded because they considered people’s needs and the opposition’s demands and transformed them into effective policies.

mar 19, 2017
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Commenti disabilitati su DUTCH ELECTIONS

DUTCH ELECTIONS

The Green and the Populist

In principle, I can’t help being satisfied with the success of the Left Green Party in the Netherlands, led by Mr. Klaver whose physiognomy makes him a quasi-double of the attractive Canadian PM Trudeau. Klaver’s party won 14 seats (+10) making Leftist Greens the fifth party in the small (150 seats) and fragmented Dutch Parliament which will host 13 groups out of the 28 that took part in the election. One should consider that also the “Animal Rights” party gained three more seats, moving from to 2 to 5. For about ten years now I’ve been maintaining that the only possible alternative to populism is a political platform based on environmental (liberal) values. All over the Western world there is a large generically environmentalist electorate that is not represented in the institutions. It could become the real alternative both to the old and dying establishments and to populisms whose growth is almost untamable with the current tired ideological tools. Sooner or later they will overrun the defensive policy set by all the European states’ establishments as happened with Trump and Brexit. This approach recalls the embarrassing ineffectiveness of the Maginot line vis-à-vis a profoundly changed ideology and military organization. 

Nonetheless, my gratification for the success of the Dutch Left Green Party is quite mild. Klaver’s claim to be “leftist” has helped significantly in drawing votes from the old Labor Party – the real loser in this election (from 38 to 9 seats of the 150 seats available in the Parliament) – but the Green Party’s apparent claim to be leftist might constitute a barrier to its possible further advancement. It implies that its environmentalism on one hand merely overlays old socialist values; on the other, it hinders the inclusion of a large part of a potential electorate that would approve their environmental concern, but refuse their dogmatic leftist approach. Thus, it’s unlikely they can do better in the future and are doomed to be an opposition force. If, by any chance, they ally with Mr. Rutte’s coalition, the Green Party will lose a large part of its electorate.

Of course, I’m also happy that Mr. Wilders’ extreme right wing gained less votes than expected. However, in the general picture, the real winners are the conservatives and Rutte will be able to assemble and lead a governmental patchwork coalition in a month or two. The reigning PM has conducted a campaign which has included some of Wilders’ themes. The ban he imposed on Turkish ministers has moved several votes from Wilders’ potential constituency and its allies’, but has created an international crisis and eventually favored Erdogan’s domestic politics. The Netherlands is a small country, but is highly developed, traditionally open and a supporter of EU. Because of its political system based on proportional representation and the consequent high number of political parties, it also represents a wide range of different opinions and can be an interesting case study about people’s way of thinking which can suggest interesting clues for other EU countries.

Wilders’ success wouldn’t have been a big deal if it had happened only in Holland (or in Austria with Norbert Hofer), but it could provoke a major impact if populists win in France, Germany, UK or Italy. The major worry comes from France whose President has more power than in any other European large country and the administrative system is still very centralized. Italian and German Constitutions strongly limit the PM’s and the majority’s power because they are mindful of past dictatorial experience. Moreover, Italian populists are split into two competing parties, one of which – the Five Star Movement – is anything but subversive. No doubt they are radical in calling for a dramatic change in politics and representation. However, they are different from Wilders, Farrage, Le Pen and the likes, for at least the following reasons: (a) they are so progressive that you may easily blame them of being utopians (and even a little confused); (b) they are not inspired by fascist, nationalist or anti-Islamic feeling; (c) they are very critical about EU as it operates nowadays, but are not against it; (d) they do not question the established institutions and rather they want them to work better; (e) last but not least, their platform largely includes environmental values and they represent almost one third of the Italian electorate. They might represent the future of a radically reformed EU. Hence, no surprise they applied to join ALDE group in the European Parliament. Pity they’ve been refused because old biases against them. Certainly, their alliance with European liberals would have both quickened their (necessary) political evolution and helped in renovating Liberal Parties.

mag 10, 2016
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Commenti disabilitati su IS SADIQ KHAN REALLY MUSLIM?

IS SADIQ KHAN REALLY MUSLIM?

Khan’s religion and origin have been (properly) used!

Is Sadiq Khan really a Muslim of Pakistani origin? The newly elected Mayor of London is also so many other things that are politically much more important than his religion and his parents’ origin. Kahn made a long and successful career in the “soft left” of Labor Party, so that in one of his first speeches as Mayor of London he attacked Corbyn, the Labor current leftist leader. Nothing wrong in it of course, but no one can expect any radical change in city government.

A Muslim Pakistani must be even more conventional than any other politician to be accepted by the British and by Labor establishments. No one more than a Pakistani Muslim in UK is required to prove loyal and reliable, in effect conservative. Thus, politically Kahn contributes to a further swelling of the centrist quagmire in which most Western politicians float adrift with the only goal of not to sink.

The election of Khan in a prominent and highly visible political role is a well-timed move to lessen tensions among ethnic and religious communities. It shows that the majority of London voters (not so sure about British) are still tolerant and open-minded. However, it is nothing more than a brilliant and appropriate communication campaign. Rather than respect Khan’s religion and origin, they have been properly used!

mar 16, 2016
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Commenti disabilitati su TRUMP AND SANDERS

TRUMP AND SANDERS

Two sides of the same coin

2016 American presidential campaign confirms the trend that has been going on in Europe for more than a decade. A grand coalition between century old contenders, the republicans and the democrats, might materialize as the most viable solution against the radical threats; Trump and Sanders, no matter how different from one another, represent a radical drift of Western politics. A histrionic Donald Trump is definitely the most apparent character on stage. Moreover, compared to Sanders, he has more chances to win his party’s nomination. The issues that the multi-billionaire candidate raises are garnished with a discriminatory and insulting attitude that scandalizes a large part of American conservatives. The visceral and offensive manner in which Trump poses insurmountable obstacles for rational discourse and may well be the best hoax to avoid a serious debate. All pondered issues are dismissed as populist empty talk and no one considers that, hidden in the insults, there are radically alternative visions of the world that are permeating the collective conscience of most Westerners.

Peeling back the layers, Trump’s disjointed vision is worth discussing. To achieve this goal we need time and intellectual endeavor. However, nowadays instead of being fascinated by the imagination of the future, intellectuals prefer to be used to re-propose the past. On the other hand, it’s a mistake to belittle the meaning of Sanders’ success. A candidate to the Presidency of the U.S. who declares himself a socialist and vows for an expansion of federal spending proves a novelty in the modern American political milieu. Unfortunately, Sanders calls for an old approach that is no longer applicable lest you strengthen that very establishment-dominated bureaucracy that in principle he wants to fight.

Hence, the real contest will take place –- as has been happening in Europe for more than a decade -– between an establishment offering an obsolete political and social model versus a hazy “new” (dis)order that recalls Gramsci’s quote: “The old is dying and the new cannot yet be born. In the interim, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” In Europe we have our Trumps (Farrage, Le Pen, Salvini, Petry and more), our Sanders (Corbyn, Varoufakis, Landini) and our Clintons. And of course we also have some Republicans à la Romney who are available to vote for Clinton in order to preserve the power structure. In Italy the good news is that the Five Star Movement is neither part of the old fashioned left nor of the vulgar and racist right wing. FSM offers an original and promising political alternative, but is of course still troubled by ingenuity and contradictions. Often it runs into contradictions as it lacks a sound ideological foundation. It’s the task of free thinkers –- if there are any -– to elaborate and present a political theory that is both radically new and coherent. It’s not going to happen overnight, of course, and all we can do is hope that vulgar and disjointed populism won’t take over in the interim.

 

gen 5, 2016
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Commenti disabilitati su AN ITALIAN OPTION

AN ITALIAN OPTION

How to Face Populism in Europe

Foreigners consider Italian politics to be quite messy and definitely incomprehensible. So do Italians. Nonetheless, political phenomena are not as immutable as the laws of physics and it may happen that a consistent and creative scenario pops out of the usual mess. This is the case of the Italian Five Star Movement (FSM). Differently from most other populist European movements, FSM is not connected to any nineteenth and twentieth century ideology, either neo-fascists or nationalists like the French Front National (FN) and the UKIP. Nor is it inspired by vetero-communist/archeo-Marxist successful movements now popular in Greece and Spain. FSM is very innovative and successful in winning votes (25%+), much more than for example the Pirates (German Piratenpartei) with whom it shares some similarities including a penchant for technology applied to democracy. Moreover, it is liberal, non-violent and pays a lot of attention to environmental issues. Though critical of conventional political rhetoric and academic vested powers, FSM does not despise culture the same way FN and UKIP do. Perhaps its leaders and activists occasionally indulge in some New Age or Cultural-Creatives stereotypes but they do not refuse a tentatively consistent and elaborated discourse. Most of the leaders are in their thirties and have university degrees. This is particularly interesting in Italy where FSM’s main competitor as a major opposition force is an odd neo-fascist combination (Lega Nord, Fratelli d’Italia, Forza Italia) that praises every emotion, no matter how vulgar and shallow, and spurns any educated arguing.

In my recent Environmental Politics. New Geographical and Political Constituencies (Springer. New York-London 2015) I call for a new possible political dialectic that substitutes the almost two century-old socialism-versus-libertarianism paradigm. This political dualism has been meaningless since at least a couple of decades ago and now the recurrent formation of Grand Coalitions all over Europe between the old competitors prove that the former juxtaposition has transformed into almost fully overlapping platforms.

Socio-political analysis suggests that in Italy, and possibly soon in most Western European countries, two political parties with authentically rival proposals are about to emerge. On one hand there are the conservatives who are now the heirs of the nineteenth and twentieth century competing ideologies and parties. They have been forming official or de facto coalitions for at least fifteen years. Their conservative goal is securing the power they hold and – as much as they can – the status quo.

On the other side array there are two options. In Europe – and with different characteristics also in North America – there are several populist movements whose main feature is pure protest and cultural nihilism. Their agenda includes violence, islamophobia, war and the likes. The threat posed by these populist movements drives traditional parties to form Grand Coalitions that until now have always been successful in defeating or defusing them. This kind of response is a defensive one, which tries to deny the populists any access to power and refuses any dialogue with them. Eventually, most citizens might verbally be very harsh against their governments, but when they are called to vote they withdraw from ruthless demagogy. At least this is what has happened hitherto! In case of an unfortunate victory of the FN or UKIP or Italian Lega Nord, a civil war scenario – or at least the emergence of a highly divisive society – is not unlikely.

In Italy FSM is an available alternative to both the conservative Grand Coalitions and to populist movements. FSM political platform would be quite acceptable to most of the citizens, especially the young and the educated. Moreover, a possible victory of the FSM would not bring to a political turmoil. Nor would an FSM-led government be so effective in engendering a quick radical change because their projects are still quite confused, utopic and sometimes even inconsistent.

Therefore, a victory of the neo-fascist, islamophobic, nationalist populist movements is unlikely, but dangerous. On the contrary, in the mid-term, the victory of FSM is more likely but reasonably safe. The problem is which of the two possible opponents Grand Coalitions in power prefer to have as competitor and so indirectly support. If they choose to defeat the progressive FSM because it is more likely that it might take over, the political system will lose the opportunity to restructure the typical bi-polar/bi-party democratic system. The option between conservative and progressive will no longer be a socialist versus libertarian dialectic, but a dualism between Grand Coalitions representing the status quo and the FSM, which promotes new societal values that have already produced some emergent vested interest.

If Grand Coalitions governments will accept and legitimize the FSM as a counterpart, they will need to rejuvenate the political institutions and reform/remove old vested interests in order to defuse FSM’s radical claims.

The novelty of the Italian situation is that the coalition government has seemingly chosen the FSM as the main opponent. This was possible because the FSM’s proposals are positive. Although FSM’s claims are often radical and conflicting with big powers – such as EU bureaucracy, guilds of any type, heavy industry – the conservative parties in power could partly and slowly adopt some reform in order to preserve their consensus among citizens, which is still the main source of their power. Admittedly, FSM is not yet ready to lead the country. The radical and aggressive language some FSM’s leaders adopt now and then is just a political rhetorical device. They are perfectly conscious that their time to govern will come in no less than five years or so. In the meanwhile they prepare themselves and speed up some changes the country requires and the Coalition government is forced to endorse. At present, FSM does not intend to cooperate with any other political party. In the future – as has always happened to every once-radical revolutionary party – a split will take place between the radical and the moderate. But this is future history and because the future hasn’t happened yet, we might change it time and again. At present it is important to detect a potential virtuous situation that is taking place in Italy. FSM could be imitated in other Western European countries in order to get rid of the dangerous fascist, violent, islamophobic movements and create a new creative conflict between real conservatives and real progressives.

set 13, 2015
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Commenti disabilitati su Center for Excellence in Planning

Center for Excellence in Planning

Sibiu Lecture IUFAOn October 14, 2015 in Bucharest (Romania), I will give a lecture on

Urban Mobility and Its Impact on Urban Policy

and Professional Education

Venue: Center for Excellence in Planning, 3-5 Moxa Street, Bucharest, 4pm

giu 12, 2015
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Commenti disabilitati su JOHNS HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL URBAN FELLOWS CONFERENCE

JOHNS HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL URBAN FELLOWS CONFERENCE

Healthy and Sustainable Cities in a Challenging World

14:30 Conference Papers Session:

Urban Education for a Shrinking Planet

Chair: Antònia Casellas, Ph. D., Associate Professor Geography Department, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Urban Planning Education in a Challenging World“. Mircea Enache, President, EMI Systems, USA and Director, Center of Excellence in Planning (CEP), Bucharest, Romania.

New Education and Training for Innovative Urban Management”. Corrado Poli, Director International Master in Sustainable Urban Management, IULM University, Milan, Italy.

Globalization and the Deterritorialization of Academic Space“. Grant Saff, Ph.D. Professor and Department Chair, Department of Global Studies and Geography, Hofstra University, USA; Treasurer and Executive Council, Association of American Geographers. 

set 2, 2014
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Commenti disabilitati su Gender, Nature and the City

Gender, Nature and the City

My new essay published in Human Geography: A New Radical Journal, Vol.7, #3, 2014

Abstract: An ecologist and eco-feminist critique is likely to promote an innovative environmentalist urban policy. A new relation between humanity and nature implies a different aesthetic and architecture of the city. In the past, men were in control of the public sphere, thus they built their cities according to their attitudes and values. The traditional (masculine) behavior proved efficient since human species aimed at dominating a resilient nature. This approach is no longer suitable vis-à-vis the environmental crisis in an endangered environment. Women may still operate as privileged subjects of radical change provided they assume a leadership role in the environmentalist movement and propose a city envisaged according to a new way of thinking and feeling which fits into a reconsidered relationship between humanity and nature. 

Keywords: Urban Geography, Radical Urbanism, Environmentalism, Eco-feminism, City Architecture

giu 1, 2014
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Commenti disabilitati su Croatian Society for Economic and Environmental History

Croatian Society for Economic and Environmental History

Conference on the History of Environmental Movements and Development of Environmental Thought

September 5, 2014, Zagreb, Croatia

giu 1, 2014
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Commenti disabilitati su Johns Hopkins International Urban Fellows Association

Johns Hopkins International Urban Fellows Association

Johns Hopkins University, Institute for Policy Studies

Universitatea di Architectura si Urbanism Jon Mincu

Urban Governance in Smaller Cities:

Conservation and Development

Sibiu-Brasov (Romania) 22-28 June, 2014

I will present a lecture on “Innovation and Cosmopolitism in European Mid-Size Cities”

 

 

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