Visual Politics in Italy from Mussolini to Berlusconi

By Steven White.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 6, 2015 $US5.00

Beginning with a survey of the fascists’ many sided use of visual politics, this paper will touch on Italian visual politics as practiced by the mass parties of the Cold War decades and by Silvio Berlusconi since 1995. By “visual politics” we intend to not only discuss campaign symbols, posters, cartoons, and slogans, but also messages embodied in architecture and television. In each period examined here, fascist precedents were not only rejected, but also recycled. As a rule, verbal rhetoric departed from Mussolinian usage, while visual forms of political expression more often extended Fascist precedent. Evidence for the paper comes from Rome itself and from the Italo-Germanic alpine city of Bolzano—the site of some of the most explicitly fascist architecture still standing on the peninsula. Mussolini’s most significant political iconography drew from ancient Roman precedent and were evoked through a gamut of expressive forms. In their post-war struggle for hegemony, Italian Marxists and, more notably, Catholics updated symbols and media elaborated under fascism. Berlusconi followed, fashioning a cult of personality dependent more on spectacle and imagery than the written word, a cult reminiscent of Caesarian Rome. Over the past year and a half, ex-commedian Beppe Grillo has broken on to the Italian political scene with an even more idiosyncratic, grassroots brand of instant media populism.

Keywords: Fascism, Democracy, Political Symbols

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 12, Issue 3-4, January 2015, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 6, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.252MB)).

Dr. Steven White

Professor of History, College of Liberal Arts, Mount St. Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA