Evidence from accountability studies singles out that the success of anti-corruption reforms depends upon the support of a committed and responsive civil society, whereas bottom-up initiatives need a certain degree of vertical integration with political elites to bring about long-lasting change. Anti-corruption is a multi-actor field populated by political parties, international NGOs, interest groups, and social movements. Each of these actors contributes to shaping the outcome of the anti-corruption struggle bringing into the field its logic, goals, strategies and most importantly, its own discourses. However, what facilitates cooperation between state and societal accountability actors? What is the role of narratives in the creation of such relations?
Research in political science and sociology has already shed light on the power of ideas and discourses in processes of social change and policymaking. Within corruption studies, scholars have started to address the issue, underlying the transformative power of (anti)corruption discourses. Analyses on political frames have highlighted the role of discourses and narratives in shaping anti-corruption policies and their efficacy. Studies on the multiple definitions of corruption offered by international organisations have used discourses as proxy of social action. However, so far, very little academic research has focused on discourses produced by civil society actors and social movements that mobilise around the theme of political corruption and even less on how these narratives affect cooperation between state and civil society actors. The neglection of collective actors’ voice appears particularly worrying given the renewed attention devoted to the concept of societal accountability and the role of civil society as a crucial anti-corruption actor.
As a first theory-building step, this work aims at investigating and comparing anti-corruption frames produced by state and civil society trying to understand to what extent their convergence/divergence impact upon possible cooperation between state and social actors and, consequently, on the fight against political corruption. Focussing on the Italian case through a frame analysis of parties' and movements' documents, newspapers and interviews this work will map the anti-corruption frames of different accountability actors trying to assess their role in shaping the fight against political corruption in the country over the last years .