Mario Einaudi


Anti-totalitarian liberal scholar of comparative politics

Italian-born Mario Einaudi was a prominent émigré scholar in the fields of political history and theory, and comparative government. He was an active organizer of institutions for cultural development in both the United States and Italy. In the early 1950s, his French-Italian Inquiry presented original views on post-WWII continental European governments, parties, and economic policies. The publication brought the voices of young European intellectuals to American readers. Later in the decade, the international circulation of his study The Roosevelt Revolution contributed to a widespread and positive perception of the New Deal order in Europe.

Emigration and Exile

Son of Luigi Einaudi, one of the most important Italian economists, Mario studied the history of political thought and political science at the University of Turin (the city in which he was born) and at the London School of Economics between 1923 and 1927. In 1927, he received a fellowship from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (consolidated with the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929) to work on the historical and theoretical origins of the U.S. Supreme Court’s power of judicial review and spent two years between Harvard University and the Library of Congress in Washington. Einaudi officially moved to the United States in 1933, when membership to the Fascist National Party became compulsory for untenured university instructors, and his anti-fascist feelings limited his prospects for a future career in Italy.

On the western side of the Atlantic, Einaudi continued his studies, which were focused on eighteenth-century political literature and especially on the Euro-American transfer of the political and juridical ideas of the Enlightenment. Between 1933 and 1937, he was an instructor of Government at Harvard. Afterwards, he initially planned to move to Manhattan and become a professor at the University in Exile hosted by the New School for Social Research because of the anti-fascist leanings of the faculty members and his personal friendship with Max Ascoli. However, he had to give up the position because of the pressures put on his family in Italy by the fascist regime. Instead, with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, he was hired as an assistant professor in political theory by Fordham University in 1939.

During World War II, Mario Einaudi was involved with the Italian anti-fascist opposition in exile and, like several other prominent Italianémigrés,supported U.S. government efforts against European totalitarianism. The most famous member of this group was perhaps the historian Gaetano Salveminiwith whomEinaudi had been in touch since the 1920s. However, in the United States he avoided any directinvolvementwith Salvemini’s counter-information initiatives and with their anti-fascist mobilization of international public opinion. Einaudi, in fact, did not agree with the radical calls for social and political change centered on the abolition of monarchy, wide-reaching land reforms, and direct participation of labor unions in the management of labor industries that Salvemini and his colleague George La Piana expressed in this book What to Do With Italy. Instead, Einaudi was a close collaborator with another prominent anti-fascist refugee: the moderate leader of the Italian Christian-democratic Popular Party,Luigi Sturzo. Einaudi managedSturzo’s contacts with American journalists and coordinated the diffusion of his articles and commentaries in the United States.

Einaudi’s first-hand information on the Italian political and economic situation and deep knowledge of its historical evolution also interested American war strategic offices: he developed contacts among the officers of the Foreign Nationalities Branch in the Office of Strategic Services, was involved with the Office of War Information organization of radio programs for Italian audiences, and prepared memoranda–later published in a revised version in Foreign Affairs–within the War and Peace Studies group organized for the State Department by the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition, beginning in late 1942, Einaudi supported Fordham University’s participation in the Army Specialized Training Program, a program designed to train potential officers in engineering, languages, and other technical skills.

Mario Einaudi’s interest in Italian and European contemporary affairs did not end in 1945. In the years of European reconstruction and of the early Cold War, he strongly supported the establishment of institutions for economic and military cooperation between the United States and Europe. Einaudi joined the push for a more structured integration of the political and economic systems of Western countries, and aimed to expand the mutual knowledge and understanding of the two continents through his scholarly work.

Postwar Career

Right after the war, Einaudi became an associate (and, in 1947, full) professor of comparative governments and political theory at Cornell University. In 1948, he received a $22,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for “a study of contemporary political and economic issues of France and Italy.” This developed into the French-Italian Inquiry, a series of studies published between 1951 and 1955 that presented the political and economic situation of the two European countries to an educated American readership. Three resulting volumes took into consideration the most important and distinctive political groups in these continental countries, including the Communist parties and Christian-democratic movements. They also discussed the technical and ideological bases for the policies of nationalization in some strategic economic and industrial sectors in Western Europe. A monograph regarding the political and constitutional problems of the French Fourth Republic completed the series.

Einaudi’s Inquiry created a significant transatlantic network of collaborators. In fact, Einaudi’s first objective was to involve young and authoritative European intellectuals (such as the Italian journalists and liberal political activists Aldo Garosci and Ernesto Rossi, and the French scholars François Goguel, Maurice Byé, Maurice Duverger, and Maurice Sorre) in American debate. Through their contributions, Mario Einaudi introduced American scholars and officers interested in European affairs to the problems relating to the emergence of mass integration parties and party governments-all according to the most up-to-date views of direct observers-and helped draw comparisons with the dynamics of the drastically different American party system.

With the publication of his book The Roosevelt Revolution (soon translated into Italian and French for strong international diffusion) in 1959, Mario Einaudi questioned existing prejudices regarding American “economic imperialism” which were common among left-wing European intellectual circles. Instead, he related more positive perspectives on the New Deal order, such as those provided by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s The Age of Roosevelt. He presented FDR’s policies of public intervention in economic life with the aim of harmonizing and regulating markets without forced nationalizations as a model of economic development and civil modernization which could be emulated in and transferred to other Western democracies.

By the end of the 1950s, Mario Einaudi played a significant role in the organization and management of new academic institution both in the United States and Italy. In 1961, with strong financial support form the Ford Foundation, he became the founding director of the Cornell Center for International Studies, a prominent institute for the promotion of area and comparative studies of different world regions. Though its first projects focused on the study of the Asian and South-Eastern situation, which was central to American public debate in the 1960s, the institution was significantly shaped by Einaudi’s multilayered method of analysis: an in-depth knowledge of an area’s history, culture, and social habits was the necessary starting point for a full comprehension of political and economic dynamics within their relevant context. The Center was later renamed after Einaudi in 1991.

During the postwar years, Mario Einaudi frequently returned to Italy and spent several summers of research there. He maintained ties with various intellectual and academic circles and liberal political groups-partly through his father, president of the Italian republic from 1948 to 1955, as well as through his brother, owner of the renowned publishing house Giulio Einaudi Editore. In 1964, he founded the Luigi Einaudi Foundation in Turin in memory of his father with the aim of managing his intellectual heritage in historical, economic, and social studies. The Foundation constituted one of the first attempts to introduce the American-style model of financially independent cultural foundations into the state-centered Italian academic context. While public support still remains crucial for advanced studies, this kind of cultural institution became widespread in Italy starting in the early 1990s, when the legislative framework began to encourage the creation of state-private integrated networks for the promotion of research.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Mario Einaudi
  • Coverage 1904–1994
  • Author
  • Keywords Mario Einaudi, Italy, Political History, Political Theory, Political Science, Polisci, Comparative Government, French-Italian Inquiry, New Deal
  • Website Name Transatlantic Perspectives
  • URL
  • Access Date June 24, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 29, 2018