The Politicus

Create | Share | Influence

Something very interesting just happened in Italy: The Five Star movement

3 min read

Something very interesting just happened in the Italian elections and I don’t think it should be dismissed and/or disparaged by the way it is being covered (or not covered) here in the United States.  You are doing to hear that it is aligned with right-wing anti-immigrant parties (it is not, at least much less so than the Republican party in the United States), you are going to hear that it is controlled by Russian (it’s not, at least nowhere near as much as the Republican party in the United States). You are going to be told that it is complete chaos and will be unable to accomplish anything (we will see, but my guess is much less than the Republican party in the United States). Roger Cohen wrote a particularly ugly article in the New York Times this morning (I am wondering how the Times can be thought of as anything other than a corporatist rag).

What the Five Star system is: a challenge to establishment politics in Europe and perhaps eventually all over the world and a direct challenge to neoliberal orthodoxy in a way I have not seen to this point.  I first met some of the people involved in the Five Star movement at the Human Development and Capability Association a few years ago along with members of the Pirate Party (honestly I thought the Pirate Party would be the first to make ripples).  The Five Stat party, if I am right, is based at least in part on a Capability Approach. The Capability Approach suggests that the first role of government (local and beyond) is to provide basic quality of life to citizens, what the economic Amartya Sen refers to as basic functioning, so that they are able to focus on emotional, social and political advancement, in other words flourish, rather than having to worry about day to day survival.  The economic (and other types of) success of the government is not measured in gross dollars (GDP) but in individual happiness.

I believe it is referred to as the Five Star movement because at least in Sen’s theory basic capabilities are usually measured in groups of five (but they are different depending on the particular ecology). The five stars in Italy are public water, sustainable development, sustainable transport, right to Internet access, and environmentalism.  There are more broad (except for public water) than the types of functioning Sen proposes but they are indeed very close.

What Sen also suggests is that direct participation in decision making is critical to human flourishing. Individuals cannot feel decisions are taken out of their hands.  That is the role the Web as a tool of direct democracy plays. It is a complete shift in worldviews of economics and democracies.  It also maybe be the future.  My guess is you haven’t heard of it much in the United States because we keep a tight lid on what it’s allowable to discuss but it is gaining in popularity in much of the emerging world and now obviously Europe. It is a much bigger challenge because of its popularity than anything that has come before and powerful interests are going to move quickly to crush it. It may be here in the United States though by the 2020 election. Keep a very close eye on it. It may challenge everything we know about politics and economics.

Sen, A. (2001). Development as freedom. Oxford Paperbacks.


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Politicus is a collaborative political community that facilitates content creation directly on the site. Our goal is to make the political conversation accessible to everyone.

Any donations we receive will go into writer outreach. That could be advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit or person-to-person outreach on College campuses. Please help if you can:

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x