Joseph LaPalombara

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Joseph LaPalombara
Prof LaP Final3.0.jpg
Professor LaPalombara pictured in his office at Yale University, New Haven, CT, April 2015
Born May 18, 1925
Little Italy, Chicago, Illinois
Residence New Haven
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Princeton University Ph.D. (1954) A.M. (1952)
University of Illinois A.M. (1950) B.A. (1947)
University of Rome Certificate (1958)
Scientific career
Fields Comparative Politics
Political Systems
Political Psychology
Italian Politics
International Industrial Management
Multinational Corporation Operations
Institutions Yale University Arnold Wolfers Emeritus of Political Science and Management
Yale University Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science (1968-2001)
Yale University Professor of International Management, School of Management (1978-1983)
Michigan State University Professor of Political Science
Princeton University
Oregon State University
University of Bergamo (visiting), LUISS (Rome) (visiting)
Columbia University (visiting)
University of California Berkeley (visiting)
University of Florence (visiting)

Joseph LaPalombara (born May 18, 1925) is the Arnold Wolfers Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Management, and a Senior Research Scholar in the Center for Comparative Research at Yale University.[1][2] He is best known for his contributions to the fields of comparative politics, comparative public administration, political development, Italian politics and the organization and behavior of international firms. He served as chair of Yale's Institution for Social and Policy Studies for five years, and as Chair of its Department of Political Science for two three-year terms. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has held fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Guggenheim, Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Twentieth Century Fund, the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Program.[3][4] He has been awarded the Medals of Honor by the Presidency of the Italian Republic and by the Italian Constitutional Court.[5] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

Educational and academic life[edit]

The son of Italian immigrants, LaPalombara grew up on Chicago's west side in a neighborhood of row houses and patronage politics known for 150 years as "Little Italy". He dropped out of high school at age sixteen, and never graduated. While working in Chicago, he added to his high school preparation, which helped him, at the urging of teachers and friends, to enroll at the University of Illinois, which he did, on the basis of passing an entrance examination made available during wartime years.

He graduated in 1947, having earned along the way membership in academic achievement societies, including, Phi Eta Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa. He was also named to the "Bronze Tablet", reserved by that university for students with the very highest honors as well as distinguished extracurricular activities. The latter reflected, among other activities, his presidency of the Student Senate and of his Senior Class.

Postwar conditions made it possible for LaPalombara to join the political science faculty at Oregon State College (now University) where he served for three years, as an instructor and assistant professor. In 1950 LaPalombara enrolled in the doctoral program of the department of politics of Princeton University, where, four years later, he was awarded the Ph.D. degree. From there he moved on to Michigan State University, where he spent eleven years, five of them as chairman of that university's political science department.

LaPalombara moved to Yale in 1964, where he remained until his formal retirement in 2001. Over this period, he chaired that University’s distinguished Department of Political Science for two separate terms, and then headed its Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He was one of the original groups of professors who taught in the Yale School of Management when that institution was created in the early 1970s, and returned to teach in it during the last several years before his retirement. Since his retirement, he has continued to teach an undergraduate seminar on "Global Firms and National Governments", drawing on both his academic background and specialization, as well as on his several decades’ experience as a consultant to American and European multinational corporations.

In addition to his teaching in the U.S., LaPalombara has held visiting-professorial assignment at Columbia University, the University of California (Berkeley), the Italian Universities of Florence and of Bergamo, and the LUISS, the Free University of Rome and the John Cabot University (Rome).


Academic influences and initiatives[edit]

LaPalombara has devoted most of his career, and perhaps had his greatest intellectual impact in the aspect of comparative politics that concern the ways in which, in different systems, organized groups (political, economic, religious, etc.) enter and affect the political process. His published work is both “institutional” and “behavioral” in nature. He has analyzed the manner in which, in different societies, organized labor, business and religion enter the political process and, more important, impinge on the making and implementation of public policies.

LaPalombara's academic influence has also been registered in and through American and foreign organizations. He was for many years a member of the Social Science Research Council's Committee on Comparative Politics, which played a major role in broadening that sub-field to include non-Western areas of the world, as well as endowing it with greater concern for theory-building and empirical testing. For several years he chaired the SSRC Foreign Area Fellowship Program, which made it possible for many American doctoral students to conduct research in parts of the world which had not been studied by political scientists. In Italy, he was a member of COSPOS, a joint committee which introduced post-graduate work in a number of social sciences, as well as a founding member (1973) of the Italian Social Science Council.

Intellectual influences[edit]

LaPalombara's intellectual contributions rely heavily on the writings Arthur F. Bentley, to whose theories of politics he was introduced as an undergraduate, and which theories he has tried to improve, as well as extend, in his empirical work. In later decades, as a member of the Social Science Research Council's famous Committee on Comparative Politics, he edited two volumes, which contained chapters on the internal dynamics of bureaucratic organizations and political parties in different countries and areas of the world. He also edited, for Prentice-Hall a series of volumes in comparative politics, which included books by distinguished political scientists such as Jean Blondel, Henry Ehrmann, Carl J. Friedrich, Robert Putnam, James Scott, Philip Shively and others.

Awards, honors, professional associations, consultancies, editorial posts[edit]

Beginning during his graduate student years, LaPalombara has held fellowships, or otherwise been supported in his research endeavors by such organizations as the following: Fulbright Program, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Social Science Research Council, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Michigan State Clearing House, Twentieth Century Fund, and the Rockefeller, Ford and Guggenheim foundations. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Illinois, and of the Career Achievement Award from the Conference Group for the Study of Italian Politics and Society (CONGRIPS). He was appointed Knights Commander of Order of Merit of the Italian Republic Society, as well as a Medal awarded to him by Italy’s Constitutional Court for his research on the Italian constitutional system.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and also of the Connecticut academy of that name. He has served on the Executive Council of the American Political Science Association, as well as been that organization’s Vice President. He was a founding member and President of the Conference Group for the Study of Italian Politics and Society. He is a founding member of CSS (Italian Social Science Council), and now one of that organization's Honorary Members. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a past member of the National Committee for American Foreign Policy. He is currently the president of Reset Dialogues U.S.A., and organization centered in Rome, Italy; a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for American Studies (Rome) and is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Rome.

LaPalombara was the founder (1978) as well as the initial president of Multinational Strategies, Incorporated, a firm specialized in assisting business enterprises in making systematic assessments of non-economic factors which may influence their overseas investments in various environments. His consultancies have included several of America’s leading foundations, as well as governmental institutions like the Department of State, Agency for International Development, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Foreign Service Institute. He has worked as an industrial consultant to leading American and European enterprises, and as an academic consultant to several American and European universities. In 1980-1981, he served as first secretary of the U.S. Embassy, in Rome, in charge of the organization's cultural section.

He is currently an editor of the Journal of International Business Studies, and a member of the editorial board of The Yale Review. In the past, he has been the editor-in-chief of the Italy Italy magazine, as well as a journalistic writer for many of Italy's leading daily and weekly newspapers.

Themes of scholarship[edit]

LaPalombara's work reflects, perhaps more than anything else, skepticism about the easy assumptions found in the writings of political science regarding the actual workings of the political process in democratic societies. He has lamented the discipline's overemphasis of the so-called "inputs" and "outputs" of political systems, without equal attention paid to the "black box" on the governmental process, namely the actual as opposed to the theoretical aspects of how public policies are made, and then implemented, challenged, and sometimes adjudicated. Rather than simply extolled the virtues of electoral or other forms of political participation, he has emphasized the extent to which, in democratic societies, it is a small minority of citizens who exercise effective political power—and use this power to their own selfish interests and benefits A second major interest in his work stresses the need to formulate, as opposed to grandiose theories of the polity, "middle-range", or workable and testable theoretical formulations, which can illuminate the actual workings of policy-making and policy-implementation, that thereby alert both scholars and lawmakers to aspects of the political system that need ameliorative attention. His long-standing concern with the workings of bureaucratic organizations and individuals, in both the public and private spheres, has remained at the heart of his research and writings.

A second theme addressed in LaPalombara's published work is methodological. Beginning in the 1950s, and along with others, he championed the so-called “behavioral revolution” in political science. The essence of this intellectual shift in the discipline was and remains that of avoiding the formulation of high-flown, abstract, immune-to-empirical-invalidation theories which have hobbled the discipline from its infancy. It is this empirically-grounded orientation that has informed his more recent works and teaching on the factors which influence where economic enterprises invest abroad, how they behave where they invest, and what impact these investments may have on the development of countries that are "hosts" to such inputs.

Professional experience[edit]

Honors, fellowships, awards, and organizations[edit]

Fellowships and research awards[edit]

Professional associations[edit]

Administrative roles[edit]

  • Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 1987-92.
  • Chairman, Political Science Department, Yale University, 1974–78, 1982-84.
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies in Political Science, Yale University, 1972-74.
  • Chairman, Council on Comparative and European Studies, Yale University, 1966-70.
  • Member, Executive Committee, Italian Social Science Research Council, 1975-80.
  • Founding Member, Italian Social Sciences Research Council (CSS), 1973.
  • Member, Executive Committee, Conference Group for Italian Studies, 1975-77.
  • Chairman, Department of Political Science, Michigan State University, 1957-1962.

Selected publications[edit]


Articles and chapters[edit]

  • "Political Party Systems and Crisis Governments", Mid-West Journal of Political Science, Volume 2 (May, 1958).
  • "Conceptual and Operational Shortcomings of the Political Elite Model", in Political Sociology. Fourth World Congress of Sociology Proceedings, Associazione Italiana de Scienze Sociali, 1959.
  • The Utility and Limitations of Interest Group Theory in Non-American Field Situations. Journal of Politics, Vol. 22. 1960. External link in |title= (help)
  • "The Comparative Roles of Groups in Political Systems", SSEC Items, Vol. 15 (June 1969).
  • "Italy: Fragmentation, Isolation and Alienation", in L. Pye and S. Verba (eds.), Political Cultural and Political Development (Princeton, 1965), chapter 8.
  • "Decline of Ideology; A Dissent and an Interpretation", American Political Science Review, Vol. 60 (March 1966).
  • Macro-Theories and Micro-Applications in Comparative Politics; A Widening Chasm. Comparative Politics, Vol. 1. 1968. External link in |title= (help)
  • "Political Power and Political Development", Yale Law Review, Vol. 78 (July 1969), pp. 1253–1275.
  • "Values and Ideologies in the Administrative Evolution of Western Constitutional Systems", in R. Braibanti (ed.), Political and Administrative Development (Durham, 1969).
  • "Parsimony and Empiricism in Comparative Politics: An Anti-Scholastic View", in R. Holt and J. Turner (eds.), Methodology of Comparative Political Research (New York, 1969).
  • "Macro-Theories and Micro-Applications in Comparative Politics", in L.J. Cantori (ed.), Comparative Political Systems (Boston: Holbrook Press, 1974).
  • "Political Participation as an Analytical Concept in Comparative Politics", in L. Pye and S. Verba (eds.), The Citizen and Politics: A Comparative Perspective (Stamford, CT: Greylock, Inc., 1978.
  • The Assessment and Evaluation of the Non-Economic Environment in American Firms. Journal of International Business Studies (Spring/Summer). 1980. External link in |title= (help)
  • "Political Analysis and Forecasting in the Private Sector: An Overview of the New Firm-Centric Analytical Formats", Vierteljahresberichte (December 1982).
  • "Totalitarianism: Some Enduring Conceptual Muddles". Global Perspectives Vol. 2 (Fall, 1984).
  • Power and Politics in Organizations: Public and Private Sector Comparisons in M. Dierks et al. eds. In Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge. Oxford University Press. 2001. External link in |title= (help)
  • "Anti-Americanism in Europe: Corporate and National Dimensions". American Foreign Policy Interests. Vol. 26 (August, 2004).
  • "A Global Rx for Corporate Maladies". US Italia Weekly. 2006.
  • Reflections on Political Parties and Political Development: Four Decades Later. Party Politics, Vol. 13, March. 2007. External link in |title= (help)
  • "The Organization 'Gap' in Political Science", in G. King, K.L. Scholzman and N. Nye (eds.), The Future of Political Science: 100 Perspectives. (New York and London: Rutledge, 2009).
  • "Italy, It's That Way If You Think So", Italian Politics and Society. Spring 2012.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Joseph LaPalombara". Department of Political Science. Yale University. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  2. ^ "CCR Faculty". Center for Comparative Research. Yale University. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  3. ^ "Joseph LaPalombara". College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  4. ^ "Prof. Joseph LaPalombara". Gruppo Esponenti Italiani New York. February 10, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  5. ^ Lockhart, Charles et. al. (2002). American Political Scientists: A Dictionary. ABC-CLIO. p. 224. ISBN 9780313319570. Retrieved February 10, 2015.

External links[edit]