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Socialism and leftist Catholicism in France and Italy (1956-1972)

Final Report Summary - SOCIALCATH (Socialism and leftist Catholicism in France and Italy (1956-1972))

SOCIALCATH project’s objectives consist in three main goals. The first one is to describe the historical circumstances in which different and even opposite cultural areas such as Socialism and Catholicism have dialogued and met in the French and Italian new left (especially within two parties: the French PSU and the Italian PSIUP ) during the post-war period. Secondly, SOCIALCATH aims at enlightening unknown aspects of Socialist and Catholic cultures, not only by studying the official declarations of the new left parties on great collective issues, but also alternative reflections made by Socialists and leftist Catholics who originally and independently reflected on the changing nature of political militancy and democracy within mass societies. Thirdly, SOCIALCATH aims to verify if the anti-dogmatic thinking of the 1960s opened European élites and public opinions to modern questions of our globalized society. Crossing the thematic borders of the research in the field, which separate the study of social ferment from the study of political parties’ strategy, SOCIALCATH wants to provide a multidisciplinary approach that integrates the research on collective attitudes with a focus on the political choices of the leading class.

In order to reach the aforementioned goals, I carried out the work plan featured in my research project, especially as regards the bibliographical survey and archival investigations. As far as the first aspect is concerned, my stay in Paris allowed me to have access to a large amount of French publications that were meant to structure the comparative framework of my research. The libraries I mainly used in Paris are the Sciences Po’s library – Sciences Po being my host organisation –, the French National Library (BNF), and the librarian network of the municipality of Paris. These libraries, and particularly the BNF, are furnished not only in books but also in periodicals and newspapers concerning the French new left, especially the PSU. As regards the Italian side of my research, I spent several weeks in Rome from time to time in order to collect archival documents concerning the PSIUP and the Italian new left. Yet, most of my time was devoted to archival investigations in French research institutes, in Paris and in other cities. Some of these archival funds are not included in the list I provided in my project, since my bibliographical survey in French libraries allowed me to find out some new issues to deepen. This convinced me to enlarge my archival research to a few institutes that I did not take into account in my project, thus enriching my original analysis pattern. Apart from documental research, my work consisted in a large amount of activities featuring teaching, networking, and dissemination of acquired knowledge, as I describe in details within the concerned paragraphs of this reports.

The most significant results of the fellowship are the scientific publications concerning the very topic of my Marie Curie project, i.e. the study of the Italian and French new left . Alongside these articles, I also published reviews and press articles that are linked to the SOCIALCATH project, enlightening some less-known sides of the Italian new left and its link with France and other foreign countries during the 1950s. Moreover, I achieved my first translation from French to Italian and published my first press article within the prestigious political periodical Il Mulino. Conferences, seminars and workshops in which I participated over the fellowship are described within the section concerning dissemination of the research results. My teaching skills have been significantly enhanced due to two courses I taught in French during the second academic semesters in 2012 and 2013. Moreover, the academic links of my scientist in charge, Prof. Marc Lazar, allowed me to be part of a network of scholars and researchers dealing with my research topic.
Beside these achievements, the Marie Curie Fellowship allowed me to enrich my methodological background, due to the multi-disciplinary framework of my research project. By carrying out my project, I have been gradually detailing a specific socio-historical figure, the “political errant”, which is meant to represent a useful ideal-type to study political conflict between different political families or antagonist points of view within the same political family. This category is the result of the blending of three methodological approaches: political history, political sociology and social psychology, in which the category of “errant” – especially in French social psychology – is used in order to define individuals having problems to stabilize themselves into their daily social milieus, such as family, school, et cetera. Shifting from a socio- and psychopathological conception into the sociopolitical context of commitment, this category represents a tool to analyze something that is not simply definable as dissent or political contrast, but rather as an existential reversible status of indiscipline towards organized collective political entities.

The expected results of my fellowship are mostly positive, but they do not let me quite optimist as regards the development of my academic career.
As far as my personal scientific profile is concerned, the fellowship significantly increased my competencies both in acquired knowledge and scientific output. As I envisaged before starting the fellowship, this represented an unparalleled opportunity for me to turn my previous research topic (the history of the Left) to a multi-disciplinary and promising study. The category of “political errance” is a stimulating key-concept, which represents the framework for my upcoming research. This will be devoted to analyse several interconnected individual trajectories of errants from different national contexts, in order to build a comparative pattern shedding light on the micro-, meso- and macro levels of analysis.
Despite these encouraging results and perspectives, I am quite perplexed as regards the possibility I stabilize my position as a scholar within a reasonable time. What I noticed is a deep gap between the goals and the principles of the Marie Curie fellowship, which enabled me to discover an international approach to senior research, and the evaluation criteria of national French Universities, which are determined by candidate’s academic fidelity to a single department and by holding the agrégation (a French title officially conceived to teach in schools but actually considered a must for Ph.D. and post-doc researchers too, especially historians). I actually found in French Universities the same localism that put me to let my country, Italy. On the other hand, the recruitment policy of my host organisation, which is more open to the international academic scene, strongly privileges senior researchers, so that young researchers are obliged to leave or to find out autonomous sources to finance their research.