The Future of the Western Liberal Order: The Case of Italy
On December 5, 2012, the Transatlantic Academy hosted “The Future of the Western liberal Order: the Case of Italy,” a conference held at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University in New York. Scholars from the Transatlantic Academy, Columbia University, and other guests analyzed the political career of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and its implication for Italy and the greater Liberal Order.
The first panel focused on Berlusconi’s role within Italy. Moderator Emiliano Alessandri, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, posed three questions to the panelists: 1. Is today’s Italy a product of Berlusconi or is he a product of it?; 2. Did Berlusconi really dominate Italian politics and society as most believe he did?; and 3. What will come next? Bill Emmott, Former Editor of the Economist and Author of Good Italy, Bad Italy, argued that Italy’s current political climate is the result of manipulation on the part of Berlusconi and complacency on the part of the political left. Alexander Stille, of Columbia University, discussed Italy’s economic difficulties, arguing that problems arising from the country’s bifurcated labor market have contributed to the country’s already weakening institutions. James Newell, Professor of Politics at the University of Salford, took a more in-depth look at Berlusconi’s career, focusing on four distinct sectors: The political system, social control, the media, and the party system. Maurizio Molinari, U.S. Correspondent for La Stampa, analyzed the greater Italian political structure, noting the deterioration of the center right and the rise of extreme groups such as the Neo Nazis. The session concluded with Charles Sabel of the Columbia Law School, who described the Berlusconi presidency and Italy’s problems as made worse by the zeal of Berlusconi’s supporters and the weakness of the opposition.
In the second Panel, the speakers considered comparative perspectives on Italy and the western Liberal Order. Gianfranco Pasquino, of the Transatlantic Academy, Johns Hopkins Bologna Center, and the University of Bologna, discussed the history of Italian government from the fascist, pre-World War Two period to through to the current, post-Berlusconi era. Nadia Ubanati, of Columbia University, followed with a look at the power of voting and the power of opinion in a constitutional democracy, and the particular problem areas for Italy. Paolo Mancini, from the University of Perugia, continued the theme of public opinion by assessing the influence of the media over the Italian electorate. Gabor Halmai, of the Transatlantic Academy and Princeton University, gave a comparative analysis of the western Liberal Order as it pertains to the case of Hungary. The panel concluded with a discussion by Jan-Werner Müller of Princeton University, on liberal democracy in the European Union and how the EU should address democratic deficits within member states.