Going, going,... not quite gone yet? 'Bossi's Lega' and the survival of the mass party

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The scholarly literature has devoted a lot of attention to the declining number of party members in post-industrial societies, arguing that parties now lack the incentives to maintain a large membership. However, some right-wing populist parties have continued to rely on activism by being rooted at the local level and by fostering the creation of closed communities of ideologically committed members. In short, they have adopted the organisational model of the mass party. By focusing on one of these organisations, the Italian Lega Nord (Northern League, LN) under the leadership of Umberto Bossi (1991–2012), and by drawing on individual and group interviews with party members, this article explores the latter’s experiences of activism. It highlights the reasons why activists stayed in the LN and what they gained from doing so and provides evidence of the strength of their commitment to their party, showing that the fostering of a strong collective identity among people was an important ingredient of the LN’s appeal. The article concludes that the model of the mass party is far from having become obsolete, even today.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-130
JournalContemporary Italian Politics
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Activism, Lega Nord, Mass parties, membership incentives, political participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas