Cappuccino politics: Italy’s new coalition and the lessons of populism

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To understand Italian politics today, look no further than Cappuccino. Originally a Viennese invention based on the exotic beans of the coffee plant, Italians adapted the beverage by adding hot milk and a layer of milk foam to a double espresso base. Made in Italy, it spread across the globe. Just like in the case of cappuccino, Italy has just put another layer on its adoption of another foreign invention – the country is about to offer a new blend of modern Western populism.

The new Italian governing coalition mixes right-wing extremist and left-wing elements in a way unimaginable for a traditional party. Some worry that the coalition amounts to Italy opening the door to ‘the modern Barbarians’: The ‘odd couple’ is considered an unprecedented formation of ‘magical thinking’, whose implications for Italy, Europe, and the larger international order are expected to be dramatic. In this post, I explain how the ideological nucleus of populism serves as the common foundation of the coalition. Besides fighting economic stagnation and pushing back on immigration, the plans to overhaul a morally corrupt establishment in Italy and Europe form a key part of the new coalition’s programme and appeal.

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Interview: Celine Jacquemin on African Studies in IR

In this episode of our interview series, our host Lynda Iroulo talks to Celine Jacquemin, Professor of Political Sciences and International Relations at St. Mary´s University, San Antonio, Texas.

Listen in, as Jacquemin gives insight in her understanding of African Studies, explains how one should (not) talk about African countries, and explores the future of the field. 

Find a short transcription of the interview below or listen to the full one here:

Iroulo: Let’s start with the basics. What is African Studies?

Jacquemin:  African Studies can be a lot of different things, depending on where it is housed in different universities. In some places it may be more in the humanities, in others a little more in the social sciences. A lot of universities actually have components of African Studies inside of their international and global studies programs. For example, for us at St. Mary’s University we have some of the components inside of our peace and security tracks in political science.

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A New Responsibility in the Making: Business Companies and Human Rights

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There is a global struggle going on, and it is not going to end soon. This struggle concerns the question, to what extent transnational companies are or should be responsible for human rights. In plenty of countries worldwide, lawsuits, civil society campaigns, political and legislative initiatives address companies’ involvement in human rights violations. Rana Plaza, Shell, Nestlé, Daimler or KiK represent just a few out of numerous examples.

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Why Trump’s Withdrawal from the Iran Deal Threatens Nuclear Non-Proliferation

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On May 8, President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal labeling it as “decaying and rotten”. Right from the early days of his campaign, Donald Trump has not shown much sympathy for this agreement, which the preceding Obama administration negotiated and crafted along with other states to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb. The recent high frequency visits of European officials (Macron, Merkel, Johnson) to the White House were the latest sign of the growing international nervousness and efforts to change the President’s mind. Indeed, the decision to pull out from the Iran nuclear deal deeply worries many policymakers and experts.

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Free Trade Area: Africa May be Moving Faster than its Shadow

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On 21 March 2018, at the 10th extraordinary session of the African Union (AU) assembly in Kigali Rwanda, 44 member states adopted the initiative known as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The draft commits countries to removing tariffs on 90% of goods. When AfCFTA comes into force, supposing all 55 member states enforce it, it will create a single market for goods and services as well as a customs union, free movement of people, and subsequently a single currency.

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What Happened in Syria? Global Governance Between “Epistemic Authority” and “Fake News”

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In April 2018, practitioners of global governance had to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian city of Douma. In order to do so, however, it was necessary to acquire information on what happened there on April 7. Since establishing facts in a warzone is a notoriously difficult task, one may expect that neutral experts – such as those from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which aims at eliminating chemical weapons – would play an important role.

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Learning from Catalonia: To secede or not to secede. What criteria should be used to judge the legitimacy of independence bids?

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The standoff over Catalan secession from Spain continues, with independence leaders in jail and in exile and the Spanish government administering direct rule over Catalonia. The unsettling situation has split not only Catalans and Spaniards, but Europe as a whole. Yet beyond the ongoing pyrotechnics, if we pull back to the ten thousand meter level, we can see that this issue raises a number of bigger questions: When is it appropriate for a region of a larger geopolitical entity to secede? What criteria should be used to decide the legitimacy of an independence bid? These questions are relevant not only for the Catalan situation, but for other regions of Europe where secessionist tensions flare up on a regular basis.

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The End of the Liberal Order as We Know It?

Are we witnessing the end of the Liberal Order as we know it? Two important new books on this pressing question were presented and discussed at a recent WZB event. You can watch the full video recording below.

Populist parties challenge democracy, European integration, and international order. At the same time, authoritarian states openly challenge liberal values. Counter-revolutions and counter-institutionalizations abound. Many people wonder how the liberal world could get into such a crisis. Is Europe disintegrating? How can the resistance to the global governance be explained? Is there a way to overcome the multiple crises?

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How the Taming of the Class Conflict Produced Authoritarian Populism

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A specter is haunting the liberal political order—the specter of authoritarian populism. Antiliberal and antipluralist, authoritarian populist ideology questions individual and, especially, minority rights. It questions the rights of “others” to limit the “rights” of the majority culture. Part of this antiliberalism is founded on unconditional support for national sovereignty and the rejection of any political authority beyond national borders, in spite of externalities and interdependencies. Authoritarian populism is also “antipluralist” in the sense that it usually contains a deproceduralized and thus homogeneous notion of the majority. These sentiments are often linked to the “silent majority,” those who—according to Richard Nixon—do not express their opinions, but represent the will of the people. Authoritarian populism asserts that this collective will is known without public debate or other procedures to generate it. Authoritarian populists pit this supposed homogeneous will of the people against immoral, corrupt, and parasitic elites.

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Halftime: The state of Brexit negotiations one year before the UK’s withdrawal from the EU

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Exactly one year has passed since Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (EU). Accordingly, London and Brussels have only one more year to agree and ratify the details of the United Kingdom’s (UK) orderly withdrawal from the bloc and the principles of their future relationship. Otherwise they will divorce without any deal unless both sides agree to extend the two year period intended by Article 50.

Since the European Council (EC) opened the final and decisive phase of Brexit negotiations on 22–23 March 2018, time seems just perfect to reflect on what has been negotiated so far and what we can expect from future talks.

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