Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Italian Political System 150 Years On: The Risorgimento's Relevance Today


In order to mark the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, papers are invited which seek to throw light on the significance of Unification itself for an understanding of the nature of Italian politics and/or society today. In principle, such a task could be approached from a number of different angles including:

  1. asking about the extent to which problems that stood in the way of effective unification - for example, the north-south divide; the role of the Church in Italian politics; the weakness of the state; the presence of organised crime in some parts of the South - remain significant today. How much progress has been made in resolving such problems over the past 150 years? What kind of progress? Progress (or the lack of it) thanks to what?

  2. asking about the creation of Italian national identity. Massimo d'Azeglio's famous phrase was, 'We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians'. To what extent has the task been completed? What obstacles remain? In what does Italian national identity consist today? Every country is 'exceptional', 'abnormal' or 'anomalous' in one respect or another. So: what are the differentiae specificae of 'Italian-ness' today? What challenges does it face (e.g. from immigration)?

  3. asking about the extent to which the most significant issues surrounding Italian democracy today can be understood in light of the circumstances surrounding Unification. One thinks here of issues such as the lack of full legitimacy accorded to each other by the two main coalitions, or the lack of complete political (as opposed to formal and procedural) legitimacy accorded by all of the main forces to the 1948 constitution. Are these issues of merely recent origin, or do they have deeper roots?

In short, papers are invited which in one way or another, from a general perspective or the perspective of a specific issue, contribute to a stock-taking of the problems and achievements of the Italian political system 150 years after it came into being.

The theme of the 107th annual meeting is 'The Politics of Rights'. The notion of rights has no meaning outside of the context of polities that recognise them and whose institutions uphold them. By shedding light on the nature of the Italian polity 150 years after it came into existence, papers presented to the panel will contribute to the task of illuminating the politics of rights in a major European country - thereby helping to illuminate the context and implications of such politics, domestically, comparatively and internationally.

Paper proposals should be submitted online through the MyAPSA system at by 15 December 2010

Queries can be sent to the CONGRIPS Program Committee Chair, Jim Newell.

For more information about the conference please visit the APSA website.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Italian presidency in the post-war political system: call for papers.

UK Political Studies Association 61st Annual Conference, London, 19-21 April 2011

Italian presidents play a generally low-profile, but crucially important, role in the country's political system, responsible as they are for mediating and regulating with the aim of ensuring that political processes are carried on without threatening national integration. This importance appears to be reflected in the results of surveys which regularly show much higher levels of public confidence in the presidency than in the country's other institutions. Essential though the role is, however, relative to institutions such as Parliament, the judiciary or the regions (for example) the presidency has not been the object of much detailed analysis. With the passing of possibly the most controversial of Italy's post-war heads of state, President Francesco Cossiga, the time has come to rectify this.

Thanks to the lack of detailed specifications in the Italian constitution, and, to the great benefit of peaceful governance, the President's significance and capacity for autonomous action varies depending on the specific circumstances. This raises a large number of potential questions for analysis. How has the role of the presidency changed over the post-war period? To what extent have the office and its incumbents influenced the events and processes of political change that have underlain the so-called transition from first to second republics in recent years? What are the limits on presidential powers and to what extent have these been influenced by the characteristics and the actions of the specific individuals who have held the post? Why has reform of the presidency been an issue on the agenda of Italian politics in recent years? How does the role of the presidency compare with the role of heads of state in other liberal democracies? In short, how significant is the presidency for the Italian political system and for our understanding of the role of heads of state in democracies in general?

Offers of papers exploring any of these or related issues are welcome.

Paper abstracts (circa 250 words) should be e-mailed, by 22 September at the very latest, to me, Jim Newell (

For more information visit the conference website at:

Thursday, 2 September 2010

PSA 2011 Call for Papers

New Local Politics: Parties, Mayors and Councillors in Western Europe

Panel co-sponsored by the Italian Politics and Local Politics Specialist Groups of the PSA

Convenors: Oscar Mazzoleni (Lausanne) and Duncan McDonnell (Birmingham/Torino)

Deadline for paper proposals: 17 September 2010

Party change and crisis has been a key theme for political science in recent decades, in particular as regards the capacity of Western European parties to adapt to a series of new structural challenges. One of the less explored of these challenges is that posed by the introduction of direct election for mayors, the strengthening of local executives and the weakening of council chambers. With the focus on single personalities rather than parties during campaigns and greater (at least formal) independence for mayors and their executives, party elites and representatives at local level have had to contend with a new set of structures and opportunities influencing not only their relationship with local government, but also with local party members and voters. The aim of this panel therefore is to consider these issues by looking, in particular, at the following inter-related questions:

· In those contexts where directly-elected mayors have been introduced in recent decades, what effects has this had on the relationships between parties and candidates/mayors?

· What effects has the strengthening of local executives had on relationships between parties and mayors/executives?

· What effects have all the above had on the role of local councillors?

· What effects have the changes in local politics had on party organizations and memberships at grassroots level?

· What effects have the changes in local politics had on party campaigning, candidate selection and funding?

· How do relationships between parties, councillors and mayors function in those countries which have had directly-elected mayors and more independent executives for many decades? How are the roles and actions of parties at local level different?

We welcome papers on single city/party case-studies and those which adopt comparative national/cross-national/cross-party perspectives. Preference however will be given to those papers which are based on original empirical research.

Those wishing to participate should send their paper title, affiliation and contact details along with an abstract of no more than 200 words by 17 September 2010 to and

For more information, please visit the conference website at