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POLS Seminar - Giovanni Carbone - 10/05/2022

Political Studies Seminar

Giovanni Carbone
University of Milan

 

Italy's return to Africa:
between external and domestic drivers

 

Discussant: Valerio Vignoli (University of Milan)

 

10 May 2022, h. 14.00
Room A - NASP Graduate School
Via Pace, 10 - Milan


Attendance in presence is mandatory for POLS first-year Ph.D. students 

 

Abstract

A steadily increasing number of European countries recently adopted their own 'Africa policies'. The temporal and geographical clustering of such plans suggests that a policy diffusion process might have been at play, with the introduction and the shape of a policy in a given country being influenced by those of other countries. This paper tests the policy diffusion hypothesis through an in-depth analysis of the case of Italy, a country that in recent times stepped up substantially its engagement with sub-Saharan Africa. Tracing the origins and features of Rome's policy towards the region, however, shows that external influences were much more limited than expected. It was primarily two country-specific drivers – namely, the enduring effects of the European debt crisis on the Italian economy and a sudden and massive, if temporary, increase in irregular migration – which pushed Italy towards Africa and shaped its approach. The paper thus sheds light on how the marked resemblance of policies almost contemporaneously adopted by distinct EU member states – i.e. a tight succession and a highly interconnected environment strongly pointing at cross-country influences – can hide motives and processes that are actually highly specific to each of them and essentially by-pass policy diffusion dynamics.

How do partisan governments serve the interests of all of the people -- including the interests of
citizens who did not vote for the winning party? One mechanism has been through competently
managing so-called "valence issues" -- that is, issues where nearly everyone agrees on the desired
outcome, such as lower crime or strong economic performance. In the contemporary U.S., it appears that the historically important valence issue of the economy is waning as a method of democratic
accountability. This is happening in two ways: First, among both in-partisans and out-partisans, the over-time fluctuations in government approval are decreasingly caused by shifts in attitudes about the economy. Second, both among in-partisans and out-partisans, economic attitudes themselves are
decreasingly a function of objective economic reality. Together, these suggest that economic
performance is less and less a means to hold governments accountable -- because neither in-partisans nor out-partisans reward or punish partisan governments for economic performance.

 

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