The Discursive Construction of Europe in Italy in the Age of Permanent Austerity

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Series Details Volume 58, Number 3, Pages 580-598
Publication Date May 2020
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Combining a Critical International Political Economy theoretical perspective with Critical Discourse Analysis, the article explores, from the late 1980s to present and across the party‚Äźsystem, the characteristics of the discursive construction of Europe in Italy as a source of legitimation and naturalization of the country's permanent fiscal adjustment and economic restructuring.

Through an original analysis of the official policy documents enacted by Italian governments, I show that the resort to Europe and 'risanamento ' (permanent fiscal adjustment) are discursively constructed, by domestic political forces, as legitimating strategies to tackle fiscal profligacy and restore growth, notwithstanding the fact that in Italy (1) primary state budget has been in surplus from the early 1990s, (2) economic growth has been mediocre since the 1990s, and (3) social inequalities and macroeconomic imbalances have risen sharply, especially after 2008 crisis due to prolonged austerity measures.

Furthermore, in contrast to the literature that sees Italian Europeanization as a pathway of virtuous economic and political change favoured by supranational integration, I argue that the discursive strategies developed by Italian political elites to legitimate change in national political economy should be broadly conceived, and analysed, as organic to neoliberalism and austerity as international hegemonic projects.

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