ISA Past Presidents

Alberto Martinelli

President 1998-2002

1940 | -

Nationality Italian



  • 1964 BA in Economics and Business, Bocconi University, Milan (Thesis in statistics and methodology in the social sciences, 'Teoria e metodologia nell'opera di Paul Felix Lazarsfeld').
  • 1967 MA in Sociology, University of California, Berkeley.
  • 1975 PhD in Sociology, University of California, Berkeley (Thesis title, ‘Structural Contradictions and Organizational Response in American Higher Education'; supervisor, Neil Smelser).

Posts held

  • 1969, ‘Libero docente’, Sociology of Work, University of Milan [Università degli studi di Milan].
  • 1970, ‘Professore incaricato’, Economic Sociology, University of Milan.
  • 1980, Professor, Economic Sociology, University of Milan.
  • 1987, Professor, Political Science, University of Milan.
  • (From 1987 to 1999 he was Dean of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Milan, and President of the University Commission for international scientific cooperation.)

ISA participation, main roles

  • 1978-1998  ISA RC02 Vice-Chair, Chair, Past Chair
  • 1987-1990  ISA RC02 President
  • 1990-1994  ISA Executive member
  • 1994-1998  ISA Vice-President, Programme
  • 1998-2002  ISA President

Participation in other settings

  • Member, Associazione Italiana di Sociologia.
  • Member, Società Italiana di Scienza Politica.
  • Member, Executive Committee, International Social Science Council.
  • Member, Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas de España.
  • Member, Consiglio Nazionale delle Scienze e della Tecnologia, Italy, 1990-97.
  • Member, Scientific Committee of the Regional Institute of Research of Lombardy.
  • Member, Scientific Committee of the Italian Foundation for the diffusion of Corpo-rate Social Responsibility.
  • President, Comitato nazionale per l’integrazione degli immigrati.
  • President, Nuove Regole [an association for the renovation of politics].
  • Advisor for social policy to Italy’s Prime Minister, 1984-‘85 and 1996-98.
  • 2001-2006 member, Milan City Council (representing the Democratici di sinistra list).
  • 2007 member, National Constituent Assembly, Democratic Party.
  • For many years he has also contributed on current affairs to the Corriere della Sera newspaper and a range of other publications.

Intellectual and ISA career

For Martinelli to do his doctoral work in America was not an uncommon pattern at the time, but the knowledge gained and contacts made there have been important through his career. His Berkeley experience – in the classic period of student unrest - showed in a number of early publications on the US student movement, alongside more formal-organisational topics arising from his doctoral work.

One notes also some locally-oriented publications on the social affairs of Lombardy, but others with a broad international and theoretical range. His work on organizations culminated in his role as section editor for Organization and Management on the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences. His industrial work has been more on entrepreneurs and their business associations than on the working class; he did the first thorough sociological research on Italian entrepreneurship, and co-chaired a major comparative study on business interest associations. That linked economic with political issues, and his interests moved in the political direction; he became formally associated with political science as well. More recently, Martinelli’s research interests have focused on modernization and modernity (see Global Modernization. Rethinking the project of modernity, which was translated into Russian and Chinese), global governance (see La democrazia globale) and the comparative analysis of social systems (see Transatlantic Divide. Comparing American and European Society).

On the relation between his political and his academic activity, Martinelli said, in a personal communication of Dec. 2008:
‘Although I have always been careful in maintaining a critical distance with regard to the object of my research, I think that my scientific interests and political commitment beneficially influenced each other. I also think that my political commitment contributed to develop my sensibility for ISA issues such as defending the civil liberties of scholars in authoritarian regimes and analysing the relationship between science and democracy. I do not think that my political work helped or hindered my election as president, but my political views-although less than my research work- affected the choice of my presidential address as far as concern for the governance of the main issues of the global agenda are concerned.’ (See also Martinelli 2008, in which he relates his position to Burawoy’s ideas on ‘public sociology’, and 2010.)  His printed ‘Welcome’ to the World Congress of his presidency stresses the same general theme: ‘As concerned social scientists we are, first of all, committed to address the key social questions of the present… As researchers and teachers, we are also committed to provide scientifically sound interpretations and analyses…’

Martinelli’s early career placed him well for contact with the ISA. As Mingione (1998) said, ‘when [Italian] sociology was reborn, it was reborn in Milan’, even though there were conflicting groups there. The holding of the 1959 World Congress in Stresa (with its first day’s activities in nearby Milan) led to much more active involvement of Italians in the ISA. The ISA office was based in Milan from 1967-74, and active in building interest in it in Italy, and several Italians were members of the executive in the 1960s and 1970s. When Martinelli was in Berkeley his mentor Neil Smelser was actively involved, and Reinhard Bendix in the department of sociology was a vice-president of ISA from 1966-1970.

The RC on Economy and Society was only created in 1978, bringing together two groups which had met at the 1974 World Congress in Toronto: one on ‘Economy and Society’ organised by Smelser and Martinelli, and one on ‘Industrial Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development’ led by Fernando Enrique Cardoso. This has been an active and successful RC (initially assisted by Ford and Rockefeller funding); some of its earlier activities are shown in three collections of papers, Makler et al (1982a) and (1982b), Sales (1979). Work in Italy in the general area of industrial sociology was encouraged by the active interest of the Olivetti foundation Martinelli’s presidential address exemplifies how research interests can be mobilised to fit the character of the occasion: markets [economic], governments [political], communities [local and movement concerns], and global [ISA] governance [leading to a discussion of the conditions for a desirably democratic global system].

References, other sources of information, related work

  • Kurzweil, Edith (1973) ‘Reflections on contemporary Italian sociology’, Contemporary Sociology 2: 247-254.
  • Makler, Harry M., Alberto Martinelli and Neil J. Smelser eds. (1982a) The New International Economy.
  • Makler, Harry M., Arnaud Sales and Neil J. Smelser, (1982b) ‘Recent trends in theory and methodology in the study of the economy and society’, pp.147-172 in ed. Tom B. Bottomore, Stefan Nowak and Magdalena Sokolowska, Sociology: the State of the Art.
  • Martinelli, Alberto, F. Fidanza, M. Gamba, T.Treu (1976) Conflitto industriale e ruolo di mediazione della Regione Lombardia Martinelli, Alberto (1985)  ‘Lo sviluppo ineguale della sociologia economica italiana’, Quaderni di Sociologia32.4-5: 259-286.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (1991) International Markets and Global Firms.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (1994) L’azione collettiva degli imprenditori italiani.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (2001) ‘Global governance, power accountability and the European Union’, Sociological Bulletin50.1. Martinelli, Alberto (2003) ‘Markets, governments, communities and global governance’, International Sociology18: 291-323.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (2005) Global Modernization. Rethinking the project of modernity, Sage.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (2007) Transatlantic Divide. Comparing American and European Society, Oxford U. Press.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (2008) ‘Sociology in political practice and public discourse’, Current Sociology 56: 361-370.
  • Martinelli, Alberto (forthcoming, 2010)  Social Science in the public space in World Social Science Report.
  • Mingione, Enzo (1998) Interview with Platt, unpublished.
  • Pinto, Diana (1981) ‘Sociology, politics and society in postwar Italy, 1950-1980’, Theory and Society 10.5: 671-705.
  • Sales, Arnaud ed. (1979) ‘Développement National et Economie Mondialisée’, Sociologie et Sociétés 11.2.
  • Tavrovsky, A. (2001) ‘Interview with the President of ISA Prof. Alberto Martinelli’,
  • The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology 4.1 [in Russian].

Presidential address

Markets, governments, communities and global governanceInternational Sociology 2003, 18: 291-323.