This article asks why, despite their doubtful utility, the categories used in accounts of contemporary Italian politics are almost universally negative in character. It is suggested that at least part of the explanation has to do with the ontological and epistemological assumptions informing the accounts, together with the social circumstances that have given rise to their production. More fruitful, less uncritically negative analyses require the adoption of approaches informed by alternative ontologies and epistemologies, that is, interpretive approaches. These seek to account for social phenomena by rendering intelligible the meaningful action in which the latter are rooted and, as the example of corruption shows, yield less negative accounts by allowing researchers to imagine themselves acting, given similar circumstances, in ways similar to those they study.
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