This paper addresses the question of whether the Italian Lega Nord pursues functional policies in spite of its postfunctional rhetoric (politics of simulation) or pre-material policies that are in line with its dominant postfunctional discourse (politics of identity). The analysis focuses on fiscal federalism because this is an area that links together both economic issues – fiscal autonomy is seen as highly functional to the economy of those regions of Italy which form the Lega Nord's strongholds – and identity matters – federalism is claimed and justified on the basis of the existence of a distinct territorial community with its own cultural values and social cohesion. The paper concludes that the Lega combines postfunctional rhetoric and ‘formal’ policies on the one hand, with functional ‘actual’ outcomes on the other. This combination, which hitherto appeared to be a winning electoral formula, has recently run into difficulties.
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