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Post-populist and melancholic: this is Italy in 2022

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Post-populist and melancholic: this is Italy in 2022

In 2022, Italian society entered the cycle of post-populism and in the face of the multiplication of risks and fears, sadness and the desire to remain passive prevail, resulting in a real “social melancholy”. To the economic and social vulnerabilities typical of our country, according to the 56th Report on the social situation of the country by Censis, today we add the “detrimental effects” of the four crises that have overlapped in the last three years (the persistent pandemic, the bloody war on gates of Europe, high inflation, the energy stranglehold) and the alienating fear of being exposed to uncontrollable global risks. From this picture, profoundly changed compared to the past, “a renewed demand for prospects for well-being emerges and authentic demands for equity arise that can no longer be dismissed simplistically as “populist”, as if they were unrealistic expectations fomented by some demagogic political leader”.

In a country where the health system is without doctors and nurses, schools and universities are without students, where territorial cohesion has failed and where the energy crisis is accelerating company crises and restructuring, fears and at the same time repulsion for the privileges. Almost all Italians (92.7%) are convinced that the surge in inflation will last for a long time, 76.4% believe that they will not be able to count on significant increases in family income, 69.3% fear that the their standard of living will drop (percentage rising to 79.3% among the lowest incomes), 64.4% are cutting into savings to cope with inflation. Therefore, the repulsion towards privileges today considered hateful, “with sidelarly divisive effects” is growing: for 87.8% the excessive differences between the salaries of employees and those of managers are unbearable, for 86.6% the millionaire managers, for 84.1% the too low taxes paid by the giants of the web, for 81.5% the easy earnings of influencers, for 78.7% waste for celebrity parties, for 73. 5% the use of private jets.

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In the face of this situation, however, there are no outbreaks of conflict, intense collective mobilizations through strikes, street demonstrations or marches as feared in the past months. Instead, there is “a silent withdrawal of the lost citizens of the Republic”, notes Censis. Which recalls how in the last elections the first party was that of non-voters, made up of abstentions, blank and null ballots, which marked a record and a deep scar in republican history: almost 18 million people, equal to 39% of those right. In 12 provinces non-voters exceeded 50%. The explanation is that for growing portions of the working class and the middle class the traditional linear plot “work-economic well-being-democracy” no longer works.

We have entered a new age of risks to all intents and purposes and this leads most to seek prophylaxis for immunization from current dangers. “The conviction has settled in the collective imagination that at this point anything can happen – explains Censis – even the unspeakable. Again the lockdown and then the cutting of essential consumption (from energy to the food shopping cart), trench warfare or the use of the atomic bomb. 84.5% of Italians are convinced that geographically distant events can suddenly and radically change their daily lives and upset their destinies. 61.1% fear that a world conflict could break out, 58.8% that nuclear weapons will be used, 57.7% that Italy will enter the war. “It is the thinning of the diaphragm between the big story and the micro-stories of individual lives that generates in our times the perception of risks that make one feel powerless, beyond any prevention initiative within one’s reach” the report writes.

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Today 66.5% of Italians (10 percentage points more than in 2019 pre-Covid) feel insecure. The main global risks perceived are: war for 46.2%, economic crisis for 45%, lethal viruses and new biological threats to health for 37.7%, market instability for 26.6% international events (from the scarcity of raw materials to the boom in energy prices), for 24.5% catastrophic atmospheric events (torrid temperatures and intense rainfall), for 9.4% large-scale IT attacks.
However, that of 2022 does not appear to be an Italy on the verge of a nervous breakdown, marked by widespread expressions of anger and serious social tensions, reports Censis, “but the projective mechanisms typical of a rampant consumer society, which in the past pushed people who make sacrifices to modernize, enrich themselves and embellish themselves, have lost grip and the ability to direct collective behavior”. Rather, the desire to be oneself prevails, with one’s own limits.

Italians are no longer willing to make sacrifices: 83.2% to put into practice the indications of some influencers, 81.5% to dress according to the canons of fashion, 70.5% to buy prestigious products , 63.5% to look younger, 58.7% to feel more beautiful. And 36.4% are not willing to sacrifice themselves to make a career and earn more. Overall, 8 out of 10 Italians say they don’t want to make sacrifices to change, to become something else. “It is the operational astuteness of subjectivity – it is explained – which, in the flow of unexpected events of recent years, now expresses an unprecedented impermeability to projective myths, which can overflow into the explicit renunciation of individual self-promotion”.

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The budget? 89.7% of Italians declare that, thinking about the sequence of pandemic, war and environmental crisis, they feel sad, and 54.1% are strongly tempted to remain passive. In short, “it is melancholy that defines the character of Italians today, the feeling proper to the nihilism of our times, corresponding to the awareness of the end of the omnipotent dominion of the «I» over events and the world, an «I» who sadly is forced to confronting one’s limits when it comes to governing destiny”.
At the top of the personal insecurities of Italians, for 53% there is the risk of non-self-sufficiency and disability, 51.7% fear of becoming a victim of crimes (although in the last decade overall they have decreased by 25.4%) , 47.7% are not sure they can count on sufficient income in old age, 47.6% are afraid of losing their job and therefore of facing economic difficulties, 43.3% are afraid of incurring accidents or injuries at work, 42.1% of having to pay for unexpected health services out of their own pocket.

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