Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism

Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism

Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism

Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism

Synopsis

Germany's and Italy's belated national unifications continue to loom large in contemporary debates. Often regarded as Europe's paradigmatic instances of failed modernization, the two countries form the basis of many of our most prized theories of social science. Structuring the Stateundertakes one of the first systematic comparisons of the two cases, putting the origins of these nation-states and the nature of European political development in new light. Daniel Ziblatt begins his analysis with a striking puzzle: Upon national unification, why was Germany formed as a federal nation-state and Italy as a unitary nation-state? He traces the diplomatic maneuverings and high political drama of national unification in nineteenth-century Germany and Italy to refute the widely accepted notion that the two states' structure stemmed exclusively from Machiavellian farsightedness on the part of militarily powerful political leaders. Instead, he demonstrates that Germany's and Italy's "founding fathers" were constrained by two very different pre-unification patterns of institutional development. In Germany, a legacy of well-developed sub-national institutions provided the key building blocks of federalism. In Italy, these institutions' absence doomed federalism. This crucial difference in the organization of local power still shapes debates about federalism in Italy and Germany today. By exposing the source of this enduring contrast,Structuring the Stateoffers a broader theory of federalism's origins that will interest scholars and students of comparative politics, state-building, international relations, and European political history.

Excerpt

One of the major contributions of scholarship in comparative politics is the insight that political institutions endure and shape life for citizens and groups in unexpected and important ways. We also have come to learn that the present shape of political institutions is tightly linked to their past. As a result, exploring where political institutions come from has become a crucial area of research. From this research, we know that political institutions are unfortunately not simply the product, in a mechanical fashion, of particular societal “needs” at particular moments. Instead, political institutions sometimes emerge unintentionally out of periods of intense political conflict among actors who have a multitude of goals that are only distantly related to the function we think the institutions now fill. If we want to know how to change institutions, we must be attuned to the fact that there is frequently a mismatch between the initial aims of institutionbuilders and the contemporary value we attach to them.

This book explores these themes by examining the development of the state and federalism in nineteenth-century Italy and Germany. the adoption of federalism in nineteenth-century Germany and its failure in the same period in Italy has shaped life in both countries in very decisive ways. With this contrast in mind, the original conception of this book was to explore the hypothesis that important differences in contemporary Italy and Germany might be rooted in their unique paths of nation-state development. While that idea remained a proposition that motivated the research, a more fundamental puzzle captured my attention: why was Italy formed as a unitary state and Germany a federal state? I believe the answer to this question has crucial implications for understanding the violently turbulent twentieth-century political histories of Italy and Germany. But beyond that, by exploring this question, we can also come to some surprising conclusions about how political institutions are created and change. This book finds that institutional continuities shape the state-making strategies of even the boldest political leaders such as Bismarck and Cavour, to whom we normally attribute Machiavellian far-sightedness; the institutional slate is never wiped clean, even in founding moments. Additionally, the book finds that the purposes of state-builders may have very little to do with the benefits and drawbacks we associate today with particular institutions such as federalism; the much touted “market preserving”

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