The Contentious Politics of Unemployment: The Italian Case in Comparative Perspective
Title: The Contentious Politics of Unemployment: The Italian Case in Comparative Perspective
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Citation: European Journal of Political Research, 2008, 47, 6, 827-851
This article discusses the evolution of the public debate in Italy about unemployment over a period of almost ten years (1995-2002) that was particularly crucial for the Italian labour and political systems. From the early 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the country experienced major industrial change, which dramatically restructured its labour landscape. Moreover, this industrial earthquake occurred within internal (a deep political party system re-assessment and the fluctuating importance of unions) and external (European Union-driven state budgetary limits) political constraints that have heavily influenced the debate itself. The analysis of the public policy debates allows the authors of this article to portray the agendas, concepts and strategies introduced and discussed by experts, politicians and interest groups as pillars of a new edifice of public policies. Although other sources are more complete in presenting the policy-making process on unemployment issues, the focus in this article on the public debate in the mass media reflects a specific interest in the discursive interactions between the symbolic images promoted by different actors. To this end, the authors have combined claims analysis and semi-structured interviews. Through their combined use, the article describes the selective field of contentious politics as far as main actors are concerned: its effect on the policy issues addressed, and the repertoire used for making claims and influencing policies. The authors also single out the role of the European Union and its potential impact on Italian public debates. In particular, the authors are interested in learning how inclusive these public debates are with reference to weakly represented interests and precariously organised groups (particularly the unemployed).
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