Populism Constitutional Grammar, between Manipulative Borrowing and Bad Masters

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Pisa, Italy: Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – Populism, Constitutional Democracy, and the Rule of Law workshop

The second presentation for the afternoon was made by Oreste Pollicino (on left in photo), Professor of Constitutional Law, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy.

Professor Pollicino’s paper focussed on the ‘constitutional grammar’ used by the populist narrative, with the aim of detecting which categories of constitutional theory have been manipulatively borrowed by such narrative, and how.  He first looked at the concepts of people, the will of the people, and constitutional identity, then turned to the latter concept, suggesting the metaphor of dominant position in the constitutional market of ideas – the aim being to show that, because the German and Italian Constitutional courts are two of the most influential courts in Europe, they have the responsibility to avoid injecting an identity-based narrative, as such narrative could be manipulated by not independent courts or by populist political powers.  In this logic, their dominance in the marketplace of constitutional ideas suggests that the most influential courts in Europe have a ‘special responsibility’ (not shared by courts that are not in such dominant position) which translates into an obligation to avoid ‘identity-based’ language and to prefer the ‘common constitutional tradition’ narrative.  Pollicino contends that this language and frame is more pluralistic, and more difficult to be manipulatively borrowed.