Photograph of Giovanni Capoccia





Recent talks 
and lectures

Working papers





Crest of Oxford University

Working papers 

Countering Illiberalism in Liberal Democracies: Actors, Strategies, Temporalities

Most literature on democratic backsliding in liberal democracies focuses on the erosion of democratic rights and institutions. Less systematic attention has been paid to how pro-democratic actors can respond to illiberal threats, especially in the short term. This paper lays the foundations for a research agenda on the conditions under which illiberals can be successfully countered. It discusses the use of formal, informal, and mobilization strategies in different scenarios, with illiberals in power (resistance) or in opposition (containment and prevention), focusing on how the different timing of intervention against illiberals exposes pro-democratic actors to different tradeoffs and dilemmas. It articulates how early intervention against illiberals may have a higher chance of success in different scenario and on how diffusion can make the related tradeoffs easier to navigate in some circumstances. Finally, the paper outlines specific priorities for empirical research and lays out how these are addressed in the articles in this volume.


Shaping competition: Allies' party licensing and the extreme right in Germany
(with Grigore Pop-Eleches, Princeton University)

Political elites in new democracies typically confront the problem of how to mitigate the destabilizing potential of large masses of alienated voters who might oppose the new regime, either because they are still ideologically linked to the past authoritarian regime or because they associate the democratic transition with the loss of material resources and social prestige. The dilemmas associated with this situation are well known: preventing the reorganization of radical “successor parties” might increase voters’ alienation and sow the seeds of more instability, while allowing such organizations to compete freely might entail costs in terms of government stability and effectiveness in the shorter term. Attracting disaffected individuals under the banners of moderate parties with the promise of policy concessions on their most pressing material demands is often considered an effective strategy in enlarging the social bases of the new regime. Using a subnational design, the paper explores the impact of these choices on the development of the extreme right in West Germany during the first decade of the Federal Republic.


Normative Frameworks, Electoral Strategies, and the Boundaries of Pluralism in post-Fascist Democracies: The Case of Italy

Variation in the political inclusion or marginalization of the extreme right in Western European democracies is typically explained by focusing on ideational factors, in particular processes of “political learning”, and the “politics of memory” —broadly speaking, whether the public debate is dominated by the rejection of the country’s Fascist past, or whether ambiguity prevails. This paper argues that the emergence of public norms legitimizing the political marginalization of the extreme right is endogenous to whether the extreme right is illegalized in the aftermath of the democratic transition. In turn, this outcome is not driven by how key collective actors and decision-makers view the Fascist past, but by their expected short-term gains in access to governmental power and policy influence. The paper elaborates these theoretical propositions and tests them with newly collected archival and quantitative evidence on post-war Italy. The argument has implications for the analysis of the marginalization or inclusion of the extreme right in comparable cases, and for a more nuanced understanding of the role of public norms in establishing the boundaries of legitimate dissent in liberal democracies. 


Selecting Units in Political Research
(with Laura Stoker, UC Berkeley)

Decisions about units of observation and units of analysis are central to research design. Although the methodological literature in various fields has recognized that different strategies of unit selection typically have a substantial influence on empirical findings, the guidelines offered on how to select the appropriate units for analysis are lacunose and at times unsound. In a first attempt to elaborate better guidelines, the paper argues that unit selection should be driven by the theoretical expectations about the data generating process, and translates this general advice into concrete methodological steps in three lines of scholarship in which difficult unit decisions arise. In the cases of selection of temporal units in longitudinal research and of geographical units for subnational analysis, we draw from insights from the measurement literature to devise a strategy on how to attain theory-driven unit selection. In cases where the data generating process works across units at different levels, we discuss the pitfalls of testing macro-propositions with aggregate data and illustrate the steps necessary to adapt one's empirical strategy in light of the causal process at work.


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