This chapter begins with an analysis of the relevant ‘critical antecedents’ that formed the ‘starting conditions’ for the existing Italian left-of-centre parties when the Great Recession erupted, by stressing the advanced ‘cartelisation’ and ideological moderation of the political Left and the inconsistent linkages between the Italian social movements and the Radical Left during the 2000s. Then the chapter focuses on the fragmentation of the Italian cycle of anti-austerity mobilisations along ideological and partisan lines. It also focuses on other mobilisations that, while not directly linked to austerity, contributed to develop inclusive frames calling for the ‘restoration of popular sovereignty’, with an anti-representational inspiration, thus showing striking similarities with the ‘core-values’ of the M5S, which I identify as a clear instance of leader-initiated populism.
The chapter then describes the (post)ideology of the movement and its organisational characteristics, which proved to be particularly fit to adapt to the Italian fragmented social scenario. A quantitative analysis of the sociological characteristics of the electorate of the M5S in 2013 then highlights the ability of the M5S to successfully appeal to the vast outsider sectors, whether traditionally inclined to the right (such as the self-employed workers) or ‘falling outside’ the structures of political intermediation provided by the leftist insider’s hub (such as unemployed and fixed-term workers). A brief concluding section discuss the evolution of Italian political scenario after 2018 general elections, when the M5S further increased its voting share and began assuming governmental responsibilities.