Seminar with Torill Stavenes, University of Exeter
The title of the presentation: "A Devil in Disguise? State Funding Regulation and Patterns of Professionalisation in New Minor Parties in Italy"
This paper investigates how professionalisation, understood as the existence of permanent or temporary staff, in new minor parties is influenced by state benefits and costs, covering direct and indirect benefits and reporting requirements tied to them. By studying the parties that arguably are most exposed to changes in state regulations pertaining to funding and electoral participation, the study contributes in a novel way to the debate on parties as 'public utilities' by pin-pointing exactly how different state funding regulations and changes in these spark different types and levels of professionalisation. The paper argues that access to or increase in state funds sparks professionalisation, and that a decrease in or loss of state funding sparks the inverse process, denominated de-professionalisation. The paper studies patterns of professionalisation in seven newly established, electorally minor parties in Italy. Given the frequent changes to state funding regulations in Italy since 1980, the analysis can systematically assess the consequences of different regulatory changes. The study deploys a longitudinal, qualitative approach, studying full life cycles of the selected parties, relying on extensive document analysis and 18 semi-structured interviews with former and current party representatives. The paper finds that new minor parties that access state funding immediately professionalise by hiring staff, while a decrease of state funding sparks de-professionalisation. Interestingly, the study finds that ideology and organisational structure explain differences in how much staff parties that access state funds take on, and when they let them go. The results shed new light on how the state, through regulation, promotes and constrains the organisational development of the most vulnerable electoral contenders.