Thesis step one: the second version

 

I’m researching the effect of far-right control of European cities for my master’s dissertation. Two months ago, I posted my first attempt at the outline, including the questions I’d be answering and the approach I’d take. Further research has informed a change of plan, as I outline here. I’ll follow this structure to explain the new research:

A. Research Question

B. Theoretical Framing

C. Research Objects

D. Research Methods

A. Research Question

What is distinctive about far-right urban governance, and how does its form vary between, and within, local regimes?

Sub-questions:

1          What is distinctive about the far-right politics of the Austrian FPÖ and the Italian Lega Nord parties? What change is to be expected at the urban level when they hold power, based on party rhetoric and policy proposals?

2          What constraints are placed on partisan politics at the urban scale in Austria and Italy by actors at other levels of the national and international system, and the particular local socio-economic context? And in which policy areas is there sufficient freedom of action to analyse distinctiveness?

3          What is the nature of the urban regime established by far-right mayors in the case study cities (Wels and Padua), and in particular what has changed due to their influence? How do governance forms vary across, and within, different policy areas and different parts of each city?

4          What are the distinctive urban policy proposals, outputs and outcomes produced by the far-right mayors, in comparison to preceding mayors of mainstream parties? Again, how do they vary across different policy areas and different parts of the city?

B. Theoretical Framing

Here I demonstrate the theory behind the flow of the investigation: narrowing down from party ideology to the change witnessed within the particular case study cities when under far-right control. References given here are illustrative of theoretical framework, and are not intended to be exhaustive. 

1 – Far-Right Party Politics

  • European far-right political ideology (Minkenberg, 2015); Lega Nord (Cento Bull, 2009); FPÖ (Stockemer & Lamontagne, 2014) )
  • Partisanship and (local) government – the significance of a change in political party to a change in governance. (Gerber & Hopkins, 2011 and Ferreira & Gyourko, 2009 on the subject in an American context)

2 – Political context and constraints

  • Urban political constraint (formal, e.g. legal, institutional and financial; and informal, e.g. competitive pressures of global economy). (Boraz and John, 2001)

3 – Urban Regime

  • Urban regime theory (Stone, 1993, used by Pierre, 1999) – foundational typology of regimes by their goals and the coalitions formed to pursue them: a) maintenance, b) development, c) middle-class progressive, and d) lower-class opportunity expansion regimes.
  • Typology of urban regimes (Blanco, 2013, 2015) – based on two dimensions, a) substantive and b) formal (see sections C. and E. below for more info)

4 – Urban Policy

  • Typology of (national) urban policy (Holland, 2015) – framework would be adapted to analyse urban policy implemented at local rather than national level

 

C. Research Objects

The case study cities are Wels and Padua, chosen for the comparability in terms of size, regional standing, political character and economic base. Wels: population 60,000 (second largest in the Upper Austria region); FPÖ mayor elected in 2015; industrial sector is a significant part of the local economy. Padua: population 210,000 (third largest in the Veneto region); Lega Nord mayor elected in 2014; large industrial area (one of the biggest in Europe).

1 – Far-Right Party Politics

  • FPÖ and Lega Nord party rhetoric and policy proposals (both national and local), with particular focus on those with impact at the urban scale.

2 – Political context and constraints

  • Political structure in Wels and Padua and the relation of city government to regional, national and transnational (i.e. the EU) bodies.
  • Level of decision making authority for local government, varying by policy area
  • City budget, showing funding sources (e.g. from central government, local taxation) and which policy areas mayors (are able to) directly finance
  • Local socio-economic context of Wels and Verona, to demonstrate the informal constraints on (and opportunities for) the city government

3 – Urban Regime

  • Substantive dimension of the urban regime: agenda, problems and goals set by mayor, policies implemented and their outcomes (focusing on particular policy area(s) identified in part 2, which would be analysed using Holland’s conceptual framework of urban policy referred to in part 4)
  • Formal dimension of the urban regime: leadership style, cross-scale co-operation, nature of public-private relationships and level of community participation

4 – Urban Policy

  • Urban policies proposed and implemented (with particular focus on policy area(s) identified in part 2)

 

D. Research Methods

1 – Far-Right Party Politics

  • Literature review on FPÖ and Lega Nord studies, and comparative studies of European far-right (urban) politics

2 – Political context and constraints

  • Semi-structured interviews with experts
  • Statistical analysis of spending changes

3 – Urban Regime 

  • Semi-structured interviews (using the Urban Regime typology framework of Blanco, 2013) with experts

4 – Urban Policy

  • Semi-structured interviews (using the Urban Policy typology framework of Holland, 2015) with experts
  • Document and statistical analysis of policy and budget documents: analysing change in policies proposed, and budget input and outputs.

 

In order to draw a causal link between the change in party and the change in urban governance form, I will be comparing the case study cities across different time periods (before and after the current mayor was elected) and with the urban regime and urban policy typologies. I aim to therefore isolate what has changed due to the far-right party being in charge and not due to other external, moderating variables, as well as ensuring I’m not simply describing pre-existing phenomena that have continued.

As always – interested for feedback from experts and anyone who’s interested, so please do get in touch!

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