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Dorothea Urban

PhD project: Continuity and change of patronage and clientelism in Italy


Personal information:

urbanDate of birth: 26 May 1983, Tübingen


                  • 06/2002 High-School Diploma (Abitur), Uhland-Gymnasium, Tübingen
                  • 09/2002-07/2003 Stay abroad in Rome, Italy, acquisition of language
                  • 10/2003-07/2009 Studies of Political Science and Romance Languages and Literature (Italian and Spanish) at University of Freiburg
                  • 09/2005-03/2006 Studies of Translation and Political Science at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona
                  • 07/2009 Magister Artium (M.A.) at University of Freiburg,
                    topic of M.A. thesis: The Role of the Constitutional Court in the Italian Regionalisation Process
                  • since 12/2009 PhD student in Political Science at University of Freiburg


Work Experience:

  • 10/2006-09/2007 Freelancer at Regional Agency for Civic Education Baden-Württemberg for the publication: „Baden-Württemberg. Eine kleine politische Landeskunde“
  • 03/2007-07/2009 Student Research Assistant at Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg
  • 05/2008-03/2009 Teaching Assistant at Department of Romance Languages and Literature, University of Freiburg



  • 08/2006-09/2006 Regional Agency for Civic Education, Stuttgart
  • 08/2007-10/2007 Publishing House Schmetterling, Stuttgart
  • 09/2009-12/2009 Council of Europe, Strasbourg



  • 2005/2006 Erasmus Grant
  • since 12/2009 PhD-scholarship at the DFG-research group (Graduiertenkolleg 1288) „Friends, Patrons, Clientes, University of Freiburg


PhD project:

Continuity and change of patronage and clientelism in Italy

This PhD project examines patronage and clientelism in Italy. The case of Italy is intriguing, as the breakdown of the party system at the beginning of the 1990s allows to observe how the change of external conditions affects patronage and clientelism.

Between 1948 and the beginning of the 1990s Italy was considered as a “blocked democracy”, characterized by the continuous dominance of the Christian Democrat DC and the permanent exclusion of the Communist Party (PCI) from government. Between 1992 and 1994 this system imploded: magistrates from Milan disclosed a broad corruption network (“mani pulite”) and discredited thus the entire political elite of the governing parties. The established parties suffered great losses in the following parliamentary elections – and by 1994 all of them had disappeared. Given these dramatic changes many journalists, but also scientists, proclaimed the beginning of a “second republic”.

The “first republic” had not only been blocked, but also dominated by extremely potential parties who monopolised and abused political power in Italy (“partitocrazia”). In several studies it was shown that parties like the DC and the socialist PSI cemented their power, particularly in the mezzogiorno, by means of clientelist networks. What happened to these clientelist relations after the end of the “first republic”? Have the newly founded parties continued this practice? It is assumed that Berlusconi´s Forza Italia built its electoral successes in the South (Sicily, for example, has been firmly in the hands of Forza Italia or else its successor party Popolo della Libertà since 1994) on the old clientelist networks and the DC personnel. These assumptions have not been corroborated sufficiently, though.

In which way have patronage and clientelism in Italy changed after the breakdown of the “first republic”? This question is of interest beyond the case of Italy, as it is linked to other issues: Do informal political processes (clientelism) change, when formal processes (the party system, the electoral law) change? What functionality does clientelism have in the political system? Can it also be considered as a type of participation and interest representation?
The material of my project will consist of the already existing studies of Italian clientelism (which cover the period of the „first republic“); in addition I will evaluate newspaper articles and carry out interviews with experts during field work in Italy (regarding the period of the “second republic”).


  • Postadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    c/o Historisches Seminar
    Rempartstr. 15 - KG IV
    79085 Freiburg 
  • Besuchsadresse:

    Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
    DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1288
    Erbprinzenstraße 13
    79098 Freiburg
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