Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics and International Relations: The Case of Italy

By Yavas, Gokcen | Insight Turkey, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics and International Relations: The Case of Italy


Yavas, Gokcen, Insight Turkey


Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics and International Relations: The Case of Italy

By Elisabetta Brighi

New York: Routledge, 2013, 193 pages, $145.00, ISBN: 9780415835121.

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Elisabetta Brighi's book Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics and International Relations: The Case of Italy, basically aspires to explain the question of how foreign policy interacts with domestic politics and international relations. Brighi depicts a theoretical framework to be applied to the field of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), namely, the "strategic-relational" approach based on critical realism at a dialectical level. Accordingly, the main assumption is that foreign policy is "reconceptualized" as a "product of dialectic interplay between actor and context, and discourses" as clearly illustrated in an empirical analysis of Italian foreign policy. (p. 37)

The book consists of five chapters: "The introduction" starts with a brief definition of foreign policy and the unit of analysis of the research, and reveals the key reasons for the case selection. Brighi (p. 2) aptly identifies foreign policy as "an actor's external relations, specifically, political relations," (cited in Hill 2003; pp. 3-5) and the unit of analysis in the study as "foreign policy process." Furthermore, in conjunction with an understanding of causality, according to Brighi's viewpoint Italian foreign policy is intentionally concentrated and highly represents a "specific" and "heuristically fecund" case with its domestic and foreign policy making processes. (p. 5)

Drawing up the boundaries of foreign policy, the first chapter introduces the students of the foreign policy analysis to the "strategic-relational" model. Initially, the author provides a thorough literature review on the classical theoretical models previously developed by a wide array of scholars, including James Rosenau, Wolfram Hanrieder, Robert Putnam, and Walter Carslnaes. Brighi employs three approaches within the perspective of critical realism in looking at foreign policy, domestic policy, and international policy: monocausal, dualist, and dialectical views. She predominantly devises the dialectical one that constitutes the theoretical and empirical backgrounds of the research, mainly borrowing from the prominent works of Bob Jessop, Colin Hay, and David Marsch. In this respect, it is argued that foreign policy is "dialectic and sequential interplay between actor and context, and discourses." It is strategic because states as actors are designed to achieve their pre-determined goals. Likewise it is also in relational form as "preferences are constituted through political processes at discursive levels" (p. 37)

From a theoretical perspective, in the next four chapters, Brighi scrutinizes Italy's foreign policy by dividing it into four periods: the liberal age (1901-1922); the fascist period "ventennio" (1922-1943); the "First Republic" (1943-1992); and the "Second Republic" (1992-2011). Each period is analyzed in connection to historical background, ideology, systems, political parties' attitudes and discourses towards foreign affairs, and strategic-relational explanations. The second chapter comprising the period from the early years of the unification of Italy to the rise of fascism, and he examines the liberal, nationalist, and democratic positions towards the international environment during the First World War era. The third chapter explicitly discusses the role of Benito Mussolini and whether he acted autonomously in regard to his fascist policies in the domestic sphere. It also studies if Mussolini formed his foreign policy as a response to the international dynamics, mainly during the Second World War, or did he pursue a strategic foreign policy under international constraints. This chapter also addresses the "continuity vs. discontinuity in Italian foreign policy?" debate: The era is often deemed as either a continuation of the liberal age nourished by the spirit of nationalism and expansionism in Italy's foreign policy that was also largely displayed in the interventions in Libya in 1911, or almost a "parenthesis that seems unfamiliar to traditional Italian foreign policy" (pp. …

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