‘Political Science is a Democratic One’
The Higher School of Economics and Bologna University have signed an agreement on cooperation. Giliberto Capano, Dean of the Bologna University Faculty of Political Science, told us about some future joint educational and research projects and about the connection between a democratic political system and political science development.
—What goals did Bologna University pursue when signing an agreement with the Higher School of Economics?
—Our universities have many mutual interests. For example, we want to develop joint research in the area of public policy. The HSE Department of Public Policy has existed for 10 years, as has the Bologna University Center for Public Policy Studies. And that is taking into account that Bologna University is the oldest in Europe:it has been founded in 1088. Our university is one of the best in Italy, and the HSE is one of just twelve research universities in Russia and the only one active in the area of social sciences. I think that collaboration between two such universities will be useful not only for students, but for teachers as well.
—What are the prospective areas of partnership in education and research?
—The main areas are Slavic studies, linguistics, economics and public policy. We are planning to create student and teacher exchange programmes and to develop a double degree programme linking the Bologna University Faculty of Political Science and the HSE Department of Public Policy. And of course we intend to develop mutual research programmes.
—Could you give more detail on the double degree programme?
—It will be a joint Master’s programme in public policy and globalization. Most probably, students will spend the first year in one country, and the second in another. The next step is to write a programme, form a schedule and, most importantly, to organize a dialogue between the two bureaucratic machines.
—In your opinion, would Italian students be interested in participating in these types of programmes?
—At my faculty there are very strong baccalaureate and Master’s programmes in international relations, which are highly regarded in Italy. Currently, International relations students study four foreign languages, i.e. English, French, German and Spanish. Several years ago we started teaching Russian as well. Now dozens of Italian students are learning this language. They are interested in Russia, its culture and politics. I think that some of them will certainly be happy to exploit this opportunity to visit Russia
—I think that it mightl be interesting for our readers to understand how Russian political science looks when viewed from an Italian university.
—I am quite familiar with the international political science community and, in general, Italian political scientists are very well integrated into it. I am one of the 16 members of the International Political Science Association Executive Committee, another Italian is its President, and one more Italian is President of the European Association for Political Science. As far as I can see, Russian political science is not very well known in the world. Only a few Russian political scientists have established international contacts and publish their works in international journals. This means that Russian political science is unfortunately in its infancy. Russian political scientists like to be published in their local journals and are satisfied with recognition only in their country. This is very sad. Russia is a big country with rich cultural and scientific traditions, and it is very important for the international political science community to have Russian colleagues involved in the international context.
—Is such a situation, from your point of view, specific only for Russia?
—No, something similar took place 20 –25 years ago in Italian political science. Then we were very weakly integrated in international context. And the first to suffer from this situation are the students.
—In your view, what are the reasons for that?
—I believe that the level of political science development reflects the democratic development level in a country. Political science is a democratic one, and it demands a democratic political system for its existence. For example, if you are an American or European political scientist, you have a typology:a spectrum of political regimes from democracy to authoritative regime. In a non-democratic political system you wouldn’t be able to say anything;you would be under the pressure of ideology and some abstract principles. It would therefore be very hard to do comparative political science in an authoritarian system. Besides, if democratic institutions do not exist in a country, there are no free elections, which means a political scientist has nothing to study. Often the only thing that is left for him to do in such a situation is to repeat slogans.
Sergey Stepanishev, HSE News Service