Keywords: political institutionalism, legal institutionalism, Maurice Hauriou, Santi Romano, Carl Schmitt.
This article outlines the virtues of a usually unturned stone in the field of institutional
theories, i.e. a political institutionalism. By rejecting the emerging approaches centred
on existing institutions as a reference model for a political version of institutionalism
and by moving away from the more time-tested sociological and legal versions of it, the
political institutionalism that this article sketches is based on three main tenets: 1) the
interstitial character of institutional practices; 2) the normative relevance of customary
norms (as both the final outcome of the institutional process and an orienting principle
for interpreting the law); 3) the irreducibly political – that is, essentially non-juridical
– essence of a given set of normative contexts (or eventually a given set of contextual
principles and criteria deeply influencing any normative context). In addition, the
article aims at carving out the proper place of political institutionalism in current
political scholarship by emphasizing three analytical tools that can be of some help
in dealing with the process of formation and decay of political institutions (be they
broadly or narrowly conceived).