5: The Covid-19 Pandemic and the Ladder of Power: Local Politics and Society in Italy

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This chapter deals with the pandemic management in Italy. It portrays the entanglement of different administrative levels and unveils both the nature of the complex game between these levels and its resulting blurred configurations. Local set-ups are the outcome of adaptive processes that combine both technical and political aspects. Indeed, for much of the Italian political world, Covid-19 has become both a stage and an opportunity to climb the ladder of power and blow political competitors. A similar situation results in a complex framework, which does not bode well for effectiveness. Things get even more complicated when similar configurations develop within an ideological scenario that is characterized by institutional distrust and diffusion of irrational beliefs. In such a situation, social cohesion decreases, and the population follows different emotive and cognitive tactics to deal with uncertainty and fear. One of these tactics consists in the diffusion of forms of political reliance that turn into charismatic forms of political worship, a necessary condition for the consolidation of populist authoritarianism. I analyse the surrealistic case of the city of Messina (Sicily) and its Mayor, Cateno De Luca, as a particular case and ‘stage’ to expose the biases of the Italian way to the pandemics.

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