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EU studies in Italy, an evaluation / 1 – post hoc ergo propter hoc?

The current status of European studies in Italy is far from encouraging, since the discipline has still to a certain extent a minor role with regards to the older and more established disciplines in social sciences. Are EU studies a branch of IR, or a sui generis but still underdeveloped field? How are EU studies treated in Italy? Let’s look in the first of a series of posts to the (non)scientific production in Italian journals.

The first attempt to categorize and assess the role of EU studies in Italian political science was carried on by Giuliani e Radaelli (1999), as Bardi and Panebianco (2013) suggest in their recent overview of the relationship between EU studies and Italian political science in its early forty years. What does this article suggest? First of all, the Eighties were no Golden Age at all in this field. While the Italian academic world was getting acquainted with the major theories of IR and starting to develop some concepts on its own (which were mostly applied to particular subjects, such as Italian foreign policy), EU studies were still an underdeveloped field of study who could only rely on normative grounds, and were mainly taught or researched by federalists with an eye on propaganda and another eye on the ongoing institutional developments.

What came to the eyes of the researchers in 1999 was that among over 600 articles in Italian journals and reviews dealing with international affairs published between 1985 and 1998 , only around 40 of them were on the European Union (5%). That showed a clear bias in the attitude towards the EU, which was characterized by some degree of misconception and misunderstanding. While other European countries could show a growing interest in this field, and even the UK was paying more and more attention, there was no real systematic study in Italy, a founding member of the European Economic Community. Was it a sign of the provincialization of the Italian academy? It is hard to argue against this thesis.

What is interesting is the role played by non-scientific journals in the debate on the European Union: this particular topic accounted for 10% of all the articles published in not-peer reviewd magazines and reviews of international affairs, doubling the “scientific interest” which was still struggling to find a relevant topic, even in the turmoil following the treaty reforms.

Bardi and Panebianco extend the breadth of Giuliani and Redaelli’s research and cover 14 years between 1999 and 2013, showing an almost similar pattern in the results they obtain: only 7% of articles in Italian political science journals covered matters related to the EU, which is better than the previous 5% (even in absolute terms, if we consider the growing number of journals and publications), but still a very low productive rate. To be more specific, as the authors suggest, the percentage of articles on the EU published in the journal Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, which is by far the most important and prestigious one since it was founded by Giovanni Sartori more than forty years ago, is around 12%, doubling the number of the previous 13 years. How to understand these figures? A growing number of researchers is doing empirical research on European affairs, as the development of specifically tailored PhD programmes demonstrates, such as those at the University of Siena and at the University of Trento.

The field has acquired a more or less independent standing, and the background is now various, but clear. I.e., there are many approaches, but a clear understanding of research directions, as suggested by the number of articles published by Italian scholars in European or even international journals, which will be the subject of another post.


Giuliani, M. & Radaelli, C.M., “Italian political science and the European Union”, Journal of European Public Policy, 6, 3, pp. 517-524

Bardi, L. & Panebianco, S., “Unione Europea”, in Quarant’anni di scienza politica in Italia, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2013, pp. 201-218

2 Responses to EU studies in Italy, an evaluation / 1 – post hoc ergo propter hoc?

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