State making: Italy’s struggle

By Lorraine Besnier

The Italian unification, also known as “Risorgimento”, the Resurgence, was the social, political and armed movement that consolidated the different Kingdoms of Italy throughout the 19th century. The exact period of this process is agreed to have started with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and ended in 1871 with the proclamation of Rome as the capital of Italy.

When applying this study case too Tilly’s design, Italy falls in the category of a state created, and united by war. Indeed, Tilly states that “war made states and States made war”. As a result from a rising ideal of a united Italy, and the creation of groups of rebellion, the Kingdoms of Italy went through not less than three revolutionary wars.

The first step was the revolution of 1848, which merely was a cumulation of uprisings in several Italian cities. Despite the help of independent armies from various areas, the movement was unsuccessful and by 1849, the old regimes were once again in place. Yet, the failure did not break the increasing feeling of unity, and more people joined the trend. The second insurrection led to a unification between Piedmont-Sardinia and Lombardy.

With this successful outcome, the northern part of Italy voted in 1859 to join this Kingdom, and an additional army went marching in the South to rally the different areas. By the end of 1861, only Venetia and Rome were still outside of the unification.

In 1866, following a campaign against Austria, Italy won Venetia, and in 1870, Italy entered Rome, and both the city and Papal States were incorporated to Italy, thus completing the Risorgimento.

As Tilly proved, Italy became a state through war, but as a state, continued to make war - for instance through the first and second world wars. This design is helpful not only to understand international relations nowadays, but also the intra-national relations. Nothing binds people together like a common enemy.

The influence of time on revolutions' outcomes

By Lorraine Besnier

In his book, Pierson states that “organization A was successful because it ‘fit’ well in that particular context.” In other words, he explains that one has to examine whether or not precise features can foster self-reinforcing processes in a given situation. This claim made me think about social revolutions and how their success are mostly based on the context in which they happen.

In this post, I will attempt to show that time has an important role in the outcomes of revolutions.

The French revolution started in a context of increasing international conflict, but also inside economic, political and social crisis. With the help from the philosophers of the Enlightenment, the population of France took over the power and instated democracy. Indubitably, this considerable change was achieve throughout years of instability, different governments, and series of dilemma.

However, France eventually accomplished the change, and developed to become an integral part of the international relations actors, and a leading economic power.

The Arab Spring, in contrast, had different conditions. In a completely different situation, it is hard for a country to grow, and accomplish changes, like France for instance, because all the international organisations have an increasing role to play in the national conflicts.

It is quasi impossible in such a situation to make the needed, but mostly wanted, adjustments when an external factor is included in the equation. With essential humanitarian help from the outside comes the inevitable administration of the political challenges. The decades that France required to stabilised are not offered to the Arabic countries, and democracy is, in certain cases, forced upon them, and expected to work in only a couple of months.

Time matters, not only in terms of timing but in terms of duration. Both the context in which an event happens, and the length in time which it is allowed to rise, climax and resolve are essential factors to the outcomes of those events.

The two faces of slavery

By Lorraine Besnier

Although there are proofs that Europeans did not invent slavery but simply changed its face, some questions remains concerning the extent of this statement. The way Europeans reinvented not only the definition of slave, but also reorganised societies around it, suggests that they did create an entirely new structure.

In this post, I will try to show that by redefining slavery, Europeans completely changed the existing institutions, based on their own perception of the matter.

Lovejoy explains in “Transformation of slavery” how slavery in its basic definition of one person owning another existed long before the Europeans first came to Africa. Indeed, indigenous slavery was based on the survival of the fittest. A man, to protect himself, would enslave his adversary for if he failed to do so, he himself would have to submit. But some rules were informally enforced. For instance, there was no idea of class, and tribes did matter.

After the arrival of the Europeans, the rules changed. Indeed, with the importance given to slaves, the indirect implantation of new institutions, and the creation of an entire market, the incentives were increasing for individuals to pay attention to this “business”.

However, the effects were not the same for everyone, and as the Europeans transposed their own beliefs abroad by solely approaching people whom had some kind of authority in the communities, only a small number of individuals could benefit from it. Lovejoy's example of the Oracle “swallowing” people to sell them perfectly illustrates the idea. Thus, native chiefs and religious guides had the monopoly on slave trafficking.

With their “contribution” of a new system, the Europeans succeeded in creating an unprecedented organisation within Africa. Slavery was no longer a matter of safety, but one of money.