Photograph of Giovanni Capoccia





Recent talks 
and lectures

Working papers





Crest of Oxford University



Defending Democracy: Reactions to Extremism in Interwar Europe, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005, pages 352 (paperback 2007, kindle 2011)

Winner, 2006 Best Book on European Politics Award of the American Political Science Association

Defending Democracy cover

How does a democracy deal with threats to its existence when those threats come from political parties that play the democratic game? This volume analyzes the experience of European democracies that survived the challenge of rising extremist movements during the inter-war years and compares them with the well-known cases of pre-Fascist Italy and Weimar Germany. The comparison of democratic crises that are all triggered by the rise of anti-system parties but then result in either regime survival or breakdown provides an important supplement to standard structuralist accounts focused on socio-economic variables. Although in many cases political regimes are socially overdetermined, in other cases democratic and anti-democratic tendencies are more evenly balanced, and the strategies of incumbents become crucial in steering the crisis towards democratic survival or breakdown. If, at the outset, incumbents enjoy some margin of maneuver, their coalitional choices and policy responses can be decisive in determining democracy's fate. Coalitional choices that stabilize democracy often require disregarding immediate electoral gains, and therefore are the object of intense struggles within those parties of government that are most  electorally threatened by the rising extremist tide. Policy responses have to strike a difficult balance between repression and accommodation, and short- and long-term imperatives, to keep democracy on course during critical moments. 

Table of Contents

Publisher  --  --  --  

La Germania unita fra continuità e innovazione: Sistema elettorale e sistema partitico nel processo di riunificazione tedesca, [Unified Germany between Continuity and Renewal: Electoral and Party System in the Process of German Reunification] , Rome, Bulzoni, 1995, pages 490 (paperback).

Cover of la Germania unita fra continuita' e

Despite the emphasis of many commentators on the political changes triggered by reunification in 1990, the politics of reunified Germany display remarkable continuity with those of the old Federal Republic.  This book analyzes the roots of institutional continuity in post-reunification Germany, with a focus on the role of the electoral and party system. More than the early enthusiasm of the majority of East German electors for liberal democracy and rapid reunification, the main factors behind political continuity were institutional and organizational. The political elites of the Federal Republic were the main drivers of this process. On the one hand, they endeavored to keep in place the same electoral procedures of the old FRG in the newly reunified Germany. The limited electoral reform that was in the end adopted was the consequence of a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in defense of constitutional principles of fair competition. On the other hand, West German political parties engaged in a vast and successful effort to extend their organizational structures to the GDR immediately after the collapse of the Communist regime. By doing so, they captured most of the East German vote even before the reunification process formally started. The extension of the FRG's party and electoral system to reunified Germany played a crucial role in ensuring that any political repercussions of reunification would be dealt with in the familiar political-institutional context of the post-war West German Republic. 

Table of Contents

Publisher  --  --  --  

Edited volumes

The Historical Turn in Democratization Studies (co-edited with Daniel Ziblatt), double special issue of Comparative Political Studies, Vol 43, 8/9, August/September 2010.

Winner, 2010 Best Paper in Comparative Democratization, and 2011 Mary Parker Follett Award for the Best Article in Politics and History, American Political Science Association (Introductory article)

CPS cover

This volume lays the theoretical and methodological foundations of a new historically minded approach to the comparative study of democratization, centered on the analysis of the creation, development, and interaction of democratic institutions. Historically, democracy did not emerge as a singular coherent whole but rather as a set of different institutions, which resulted from conflicts across multiple lines of social and political cleavage that took place at different moments in time. The theoretical advantage of this approach is illustrated by highlighting the range of new variables that come into focus in explaining democracy’s emergence. Rather than class being the single variable that explains how and why democracy came about, scholars can see how religious conflict, ethnic cleavages, and the diffusion of ideas played a much greater role in Europe’s democratization than has typically been appreciated. Above all, the essays in the volume argue that political parties were decisive players in how and why democracy emerged in Europe and should be at the center of future analyses. The co-editors develop this theoretical approach in the introductory essay; the contributors apply it to the analysis of critical turning points in the development of democracy in European countries between the 1810s and the 1970s. 

Table of Contents


Tel: +44 (0)1865 276752;  Fax: +44 (0)1865 276767;