“Return to your alma mater” – Nadia Urbinati in conversation with Donatella della Porta

May 26, 2014 in Alumni Highlights, News, Return to Alma Mater

Nadia Urbinati is Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory and Hellenic Studies at Columbia University in New York.

An EUI alumna, she defended her thesis on “John Stuart Mill and liberalism in Italy in the age of positivism” in 1989 and was awarded Commendatore della Repubblica (Commander of the Italian Republic) in 2008.

In our first podcast of the ‘Return to your Alma Mater’ series, you can hear Professor Urbinati in conversation with EUI’s Professor Donatella Della Porta :

Professor Urbinati’s research at the EUI focused on John Stuart Mill, the prestigious 19th century British philosopher whose work influenced social theory, political economy as well as the scientific method. Mill attempted to understand the present state of democracy by going all the way back to its birth in Athens and tracing its history. “He was the first to start working on representative democracy and how management of electoral democracy changes perceptions of it ”, she says.

Today, Urbinati is working on the effect the internet is having on the structure of democracy, focusing on political parties and the accredited media. New entrants into politics such as the 5 Star Movement, “a party without a party”, display a less oligarchical approach to politics. However, despite the great access to information the internet brings, many people are retreating into their predetermined intellectual positions.  “There is an increase of niches which people define themselves as sharing the view of. They are closing their minds rather than opening it.”

Urbinati’s latest book “Democracy Disfigured” explores the phenomena of the apolitical, populist and plebiscitarian disfiguration of the democratic process which she argues blurs the line between public opinion and government institutions. “It’s a theoretical reflection on a phenomenon I see in Europe and America.”

[Please note: during the first three minutes of the podcast there is some weak background noise. We apologise for the inconvenience] 

For more information regarding EUI alumni, please contact the Alumni Office at alumni@eui.eu 

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.