When Labour Goes Populist. How Italian Populist Leaders Frame the Labour Market and Industrial Relations on Social Media


Purpose – this article aims to describe how leaders identified as populist frame the specific issue of the labour market and industrial relations on social media in Italy.

Design/methodology/approach – two datasets of Instagram posts and tweets from Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini are provided. The field of labour and industrial relations include income support policies, welfare, and taxation. Data are interpreted from a rhetorical-framing perspective.

Findings – Labour and industrial relations issues appear to be fully functional to pit “people” or “citizens” against political or economic elites. Representation of work issues by Italian populism falls short of novelty in terms of framing, even when regarding gig-workers and the platform economy.

Research limitations/implications – The datasets of Instagram posts and tweets from Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini are limited to data from January the 1st to November the 13th. A rhetorical-framing analysis is conducted only on Instagram data.

Originality/value – the paper argues that work should be taken into account as a fundamental dimension of citizenship, thus connecting political discourse and the representative democracy that builds on it. A specific theoretical framework is formulated integrating framing theory and new rhetoric. The framing theory recalled by George Lakoff is interpreted as a modern version of Aristotelian topics integrating emotional connotations.

Paper type – Research paper

Keywords – Social media, communication, populism

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