The book describes European institutions' family tree and highlights its intricate complexity, which to this day continues to resist any attempt at unification. Europe's political space has been shaped by several imperial ambitions, a multi-layered republican tradition featuring a plurality of urban cultures, and a competitive state system in which many nations have vied for hegemony. A combination of the polis, the imperial, and the state models has never been enacted in European history, yet it remains the goal which has effectively and specifically fashioned the development of the Old World's institutions. Addressing today's potential scenarios - super-state, confederation of regions, civic power, cosmopolitan association, poliarchy of states, integrated civil society - the book provides a map of European politics, of both its ideals and its actual accomplishments. Although Europe may appear to be travelling down the road to cosmopolitan constitutional democracy, it remains the end product of many singular developments, abortive efforts, unfinished syntheses, and institutional paradoxes that render its political vocation a puzzle.
Pier Paolo Portinaro teaches Political Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of Turin University.