Bernard Gbikpi

Bernanrd Gbikpi

Bernard Gbikpi
  • Ph.D., Social and Political Sciences, European University Institute in Florence, Italy
  • M.A, Comparative Politics, University of Nanterre Paris X
  • B.A., Law, University of Benin Lome

Biographical Information

Bernard Gbikpi (pronounced bikpi) is a political and social scientist. Fluent in French (his mother tongue), English, and Italian, he has a Baccalaureate degree from the Academy of Grenoble, a Bachelor degree (Maîtrise) in Law from the University of Benin, Lomé, Togo, a Master's degree (Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies) in Comparative Politics from the University of Paris X-Nanterre, and a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from the European University Institute, Florence.

Current Research Interests

Subsequent to his Master's thesis, which focused on the 1970s' Spanish process of democratization, and to his Ph.D. dissertation, which bore on theories of legitimacy of political power from the Hobbesian theory of social contract to the Hegelian struggle for recognition, Dr. Gbikpi has participated in a wide array of research projects in keeping with his professional interests.  They range from international activities of promotion and protection of democracy in Central and Eastern European and Middle Eastern and North African democratizing countries, to policy-making in the European Union and theories of integration of the EU, and from participatory and deliberative forms of democracy, to political violence and denial of recognition in crimes of war, in genocide, and in urban riots connected to immigrant populations.  

Dr, Gbikpi constantly keeps alive these research interests in political thought, political theory, as well as in the theories and issues of international relations throughout the teachings he offers at Gonzaga-in-Florence.


and relevant manuscripts

  • D. della Porta and B. Gbikpi, forthcoming,, "The Riots: A Dynamic View," in Rioting and Violent Protests in Comparative Perspective: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Puzzles.
  • B. Gbikpi, 2006, "Rwanda: Passi verso la riconciliazione", in Marina Calloni, ed., Violenza senza legge: Genocidi e crimini di guerra nell'età globale, Utet, Milano, pp. 102-20.
  • B. Gbikpi, 2005, Dalla teoria della democrazia partecipativa a quella deliberativa: quali possibili continuità? [From participatory to deliberative theory of democracy: any possible continuity?], Stato e Mercato, 1, pp. 97-130.
  • B. Gbikpi, 2002, From Quantifying Democracy Promotion to Qualifying Democracy, unpublished manuscript, Florence, EUI, 63 pp.; B. Gbikpi, 2002, La naturalisation des politiques d'ajustement structurel comme indice de démocratisation des Etats africains, unpublished manuscript, Florence, EUI, 22 pp.
  • B. Gbikpi and J. Grote, 2002, "From Democratic Government to Participatory Governance", and "Participation and Meta-Governance: The White Paper of the EU Commission", in J. Grote and B. Gbikpi, eds., Participatory Governance.  Political and Societal Implications, Opladen, Leske & Budrich, pp. 17-34, and 265-75.
  • B. Gbikpi, 1999, Contribution à une théorie de la légitimation politique des ordres économiques et sociaux modernes [Contribution to a theory of political legitimacy of modern economic and social orders], Cultures et Conflits, 32-33, pp. 173-233.
  • B. Gbikpi, 1996, Du contrat social à la lutte pour la reconnaissance: d'une théorie de légitimation du pouvoir politique à l'autre [From Social Contract to Struggle for Recognition : Changing Theories of Power Legitimacy], Ph.D. Dissertation, European University Institute, Florence.

Course Descriptions

The International Relations (POLS 351/INST 342) course introduces students to the academic discipline of International Relations, through notably the traditions of realism, liberalism, international society, constructivism and Marxism. It also presents and discusses some contemporary issues in international relations, notably the phenomenon of power hierarchy such that albeit international relations are spaces of international cooperation they are still very much dependent on the nature of the actors who play in them, and especially the states, that are still very much determined by logics of national interest and power that mark the limits of their cooperation.

The Modern Political Thought course (POLS 331) introduces the students to some important authors in the history of political thought, focusing on those whose works have underpin the rise of liberalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The authors are Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Montesquieu, James Mill, Constant, Tocqueville, and John Stuart Mill. Through the study of one main piece of work of each of these authors the course deals with notions such as liberty and equality, consent and contract, and their embodiment in institutions through notions of check of powers and representation, notably. The main thread of the course is a reflection on the origins of political order and the means for preventing political power, once instituted, from abusing its subjects and injuring their liberties.

The Italian Political System (POLS 357) course focuses on the developments of Italian politics since the early 1990s which main story is the unceasing attempts by Italian political actors to achieve institutional and constitutional reforms of the rules of the democratic game. Does such an endless transition qualifies Italy as an anomalous democracy or are the enmeshing of institutional and political struggle after all, just normal politics? Is the question the course keeps dwelling on. This question is followed up along a variety of issues such as the party system, the electoral system, the parliamentary system, the form of the state and recent moves towards federalism, the interest groups, the judiciaries, and eventually the involvement of criminal organizations in local politics.

The Modern Democracies (POLS 370) covers the dimensions. One is the notion of political participation and the actors of the political process in modern democracies (political parties, interest groups, social movements, political participation and new forms of political participation). A second is concerned with the main institutions of democratic systems: electoral systems, presidential and parliamentary regimes, adversarial and consensual forms of democracy. And a third one is dedicated to challenges faced by modern democracies, such as the integration of immigrants in modern western democracies, and the democratization of non democratic countries.

The Machiavelli and the Romans (POLS 345) introduces the students to Machiavelli's political thought through a thorough reading of The Prince and pieces of the Discourses.

Before being a writer, Machiavelli had been an important civil servant and diplomat of the Republic of Florence from 1498 until its fall and return of the Medici in 1512. In his letter of dedication of The Prince Machiavelli wrote in the hope that he will be hired again at the service of Florence, Machiavelli both stresses the long experience he has gained over his years of service to the city-state and points his theoretical mastery of statecraft through his knowledge of history, notably the Romans history. Thus putting empirical facts at the service of advices for acquiring and maintaining a state, Machiavelli claims his doctrine not to be based on how things should be but on how things are.

In this very short abstract of what The Prince is there are all the topics that this course proposes to teach and reflect on that are: The Prince in historical (and biographical) context of Florence's renaissance and Italy's wars; the issue whether Machiavelli was a genuine republican or not, granted his credentials as a civil servant of the republic between 1498 and 1512, and as the author of the future Discourses, Machiavelli's other important political treatise that was undoubtedly republican minded; Machiavelli's political science that includes the methodological aspect of the treatise as well as the question of the morality of politics it deals with: Machiavelli has the double reputation of having severed politics from morality and of teaching evil to political rulers; a focus on virtù and fortuna, two key concepts in Machiavelli's The Prince, where virtù is not to be understood with its moral connotation but as prowess, notably one's ability to check Fortune that is whatever is not under the control of man, the unexpected events.

Method and Objectives
As for the courses method, the three-hour long sessions are divided into two parts. One consists in the presentation by one or two students of the reading of the day -all the readings are posted on Blackboard-, and a general discussion and reassessment of the main points, and the other consists in a lecture by Dr. Gbikpi on the topic of the next week. All the students are required to hand a proper review paper of each session's reading -Dr. Gbikpi's own review papers are posted on Blackboard. All the students have to present and lead one session, and to then write a review/research paper on the basis of it. The research must cover at least two further bibliographical sources on the topic, and an account of the arguments brought up during the discussion. Ideally, the student's research papers are compounded into one unique pdf document to be posted on Blackboard.

Each course's objective is that by the end of the semester the students understand the main theories, issues, and interpretations of the field of study and be able to read, understand, and review academic journals' articles of varying complexity on these issues.