Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Political Influence and Third Sector's Umbrella Organizations. A First Comparison between Italy and Spain

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Political Influence and Third Sector's Umbrella Organizations. A First Comparison between Italy and Spain

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

This paper is aimed, in general terms, at analysing relations between state and third sector, and, in specific terms, at investigating the political influence exerted by Spanish and Italian third sector umbrella organizations. It is a kind of explorative research that favours a comparative approach addressed to Spanish and Italian third sector umbrella organizations, which are engaged in representing and influencing the state policies.

This study, in particular, provides a description of the status of investigation of relations between state and third sector and of the different types of political influence exerted by the latter; it is based on some of the most important international theories of third sector, and it attempts to point out, if possible, some of the most significant empirical research.

The analysis favoured a comparative reading of the contributions of third sector, which mainly focused on the claiming nature of its relations with state, in order to analyse the resulting component parts, requirements and remarks. The collected information was examined through a specific software that uses Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA).

2. Conceptual Model

Applying the notion of political influence to the field of third sector organizations means, first of all, facing the matter of advocacy both as a proper mission of such groups, and as a function of representation of their associates (such as in the case of umbrella organizations analysed in this study); secondly, it means arising some issues connected, for instance, with the concepts of legitimacy, participation and representation. Such questions arise right because of the peculiar nature of third sector organizations, since they are social actors that place themselves between two spheres: the private familiar and collective on the one hand, and the general, institutional, public on the other.

Social sciences often overlap some terms such as power, influence and control, defining them as the capacity of an actor1 to do something that concerns and may refer to another individual, with the chance of modifying the action model concerning future events (Polsby 1980).

Scholars of different disciplines developed several notions of what is "political behaviour" within the organizations. Some defined politics as the behaviour of various stakeholders aimed at influencing the decision-making process (Pettigrew 1973) through the constitution of coalitions and negotiations (Bacharach and Lawler 1980). Others focused on the nature of individual behaviour within the organizations (Burns 1961; Farrell and Peterson 1982; Mayes and Allen 1977; Schein 1977; Gandz and Murray 1980); others, on the other hand, characterized politics as a social influencing process with potential consequences at organizational functional level (Allen et al. 1979; Ferris et al. 1989), or simply in management terms (Madison et al. 1980). Political behaviour was deeply examined also by authors such as Pfeffer (1981) as for the linkage with power, while other exponents such as Schlenker (1980) adopted a psychological perspective, defining influence as the conscious or unconscious attempt to control images that are projected in real or imagined social interactions. According to other authors such as Sederberg (1984), dealing with political influence from a psychological point of view means considering politics as any intentional attempt to "create, maintain, modify, or abandon shared meanings" among participants of social contexts. These "shared meanings" provide the guidelines to interpret the organizational behaviour. According to Sederberg (1984), in fact, characterizing political influence as intentional attempts to manage or control the meanings shared by others, gives an interesting chance to examine, for instance, how human resources move and place themselves into the organizations.

Wondering how political influence on third sector can be modified means joining politics and third sector into a complex starting context, where the way of facing this process is no more merely political, but it involves both individual and collective interests. …

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