From friends to collaborators? : A comparison of bilateral conflicts in the Italo-German relationship
The analysis demonstrated the necessity to broaden our understanding of bilateral relations by including constructivist perspectives. In the Andreotti and the Berlusconi case, changes on the interaction level in the sense of shifts from solution to escalation are quite evident when comparing the two empirical cases. But they do not tell much about ... the depth of that very change. Going one step further, however, also in the dimension of meaning changes in degree can be found: constructions of the relationship shift from idealistic to rather pragmatic notions. From undisputed alliance loyalty, the "why´s" and "how´s" of Italo-German cooperation have become more contested and ambivalent. These results point to an enduring and substantial character of change that has taken place, since structures of meaning are intersubjective and hardly reducible to personality or particular circumstances. The analysis, thus, challenges prevailing beliefs on continuity in Italo-German relations and provides further empirical evidence in support of Rusconi´s estrangementhypothesis. Furthermore, it refutes simplistic explanations of Italo-German difficulties as caused exclusively by an Italian Prime Minister being unpopular in Germany. In contrast, merely superficial developments are accompanied by and embedded in deeper changes in the relationship´s meaning. Although the results of the presented case comparison convey a clear message, they have to be treated somewhat cautiously. In the end, the analysis was about comparing two single anecdotes, which do not (and neither aim to) represent the total sum of Italo-German contacts. They may still serve as first illustration of the usefulness of systematic comparative analysis. However, further research has to be undertaken in order to prove whether results hold true in other settings and broader frameworks of Italo-German cooperation.