Reforming public administration in Italy: Continuity and change from 1861 to 2020

Ongaro, Edoardo; Di Mascio, Fabrizio; Melis, Guido and Natalini, Alessandro (2023). Reforming public administration in Italy: Continuity and change from 1861 to 2020. In: Goldfinch, Shaun ed. Handbook of Public Administration Reform. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, pp. 227–246.



This chapter provides an overview of administrative reforms in Italy over the entire period since the unification of the country, in 1861, to 2020. We observe significant continuity and limited change in public administration in Italy. Descriptively, this chapter provides a broad historical perspective on administrative reforms in Italy, as well as discussing the ideational bases for the reforms that occurred more recently by examining how international influences since the 1980s have combined with long-standing national-endogenous ideas in shaping contemporary reforms. Theoretically, the chapter has its roots in historical new institutionalism, meaning that a long-term historical perspective is required to understand patterns of administrative reforms that exhibit significant continuity. We complement our historical institutionalist analysis with a functional perspective whereby public administration is seen as part of society and affected by its demands. Hence continuity is also the result of socio-economic and political pressures towards maintenance of the status quo.

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