Alinari History of Italy
Università IULM Fratelli Alinari Università degli studi di Milano with the contribution of
Fondazione Cariplo

Previous
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi

    Giuseppe Garibaldi

  • Painting of a demonstration in honor of Carlo Alberto of Savoy, which took place in Piazza Castello in Turin. Work conserved in the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento, in Turin

    Painting of a demonstration in honor of Carlo Alberto of Savoy, which took place in Piazza Castello in Turin. Work conserved in the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento, in Turin

  • Italian occupation of Tripolitania (Tarabulus): 29 September, 1911 Italian forces disembark at Tripoli and occupy the country

    Italian occupation of Tripolitania (Tarabulus): 29 September, 1911 Italian forces disembark at Tripoli and occupy the country

  • General Cadorna passing one of the companies of the Infantry Regiment in review

    General Cadorna passing one of the companies of the Infantry Regiment in review

  • The mob walks along the roads of Fiume, singing hymns to Italy, during the city occupation of Fiume by part of the Italian legionary troops, headed by Gabriele D'Annunzio.

    The mob walks along the roads of Fiume, singing hymns to Italy, during the city occupation of Fiume by part of the Italian legionary troops, headed by Gabriele D'Annunzio.

  • The Italian Fascist Youth Movement of the fourth grade, doing the Fascist salute

    The Italian Fascist Youth Movement of the fourth grade, doing the Fascist salute

  • Group of Italian soldiers leaving Gomel for Italy after the Russian campaign of 1942-43

    Group of Italian soldiers leaving Gomel for Italy after the Russian campaign of 1942-43

  • The politician Alcide De Gasperi (1881-1954) in the role of President of the Council of Ministers with the other members of the government, Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome

    The politician Alcide De Gasperi (1881-1954) in the role of President of the Council of Ministers with the other members of the government, Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome

  • Antonio Segni, president of the Italian Republic, and Aldo Moro, president of the Council

    Antonio Segni, president of the Italian Republic, and Aldo Moro, president of the Council

  • Exhibition of electrical household appliances and of a car Fiat 600 on the occasion of the Rai-Tv subscription campaign in 1957 in Tuscany

    Exhibition of electrical household appliances and of a car Fiat 600 on the occasion of the Rai-Tv subscription campaign in 1957 in Tuscany

  • March for Peace in Vietnam, Rome

    March for Peace in Vietnam, Rome

  • Newspaper with a photo of Aldo Moro prisoner of "Brigate Rosse"

    Newspaper with a photo of Aldo Moro prisoner of "Brigate Rosse"

  • The Honorable Giulio Andreotti shaking hands with the Prime Minister Bettino Craxi during a session of the House in Montecitorio. On Craxi's left is Arnaldo Forlani

    The Honorable Giulio Andreotti shaking hands with the Prime Minister Bettino Craxi during a session of the House in Montecitorio. On Craxi's left is Arnaldo Forlani

  • Members of the "Spadolini Government." In the middle of the image, President Sandro Pertini is visible

    Members of the "Spadolini Government." In the middle of the image, President Sandro Pertini is visible

  • The magistrates Francesco Greco, Francesco Saverio Borrelli, Gherardo Colombo and Ilda Boccassini the press conference of the Clean Hands Pool, Bern, Switzerland

    The magistrates Francesco Greco, Francesco Saverio Borrelli, Gherardo Colombo and Ilda Boccassini the press conference of the Clean Hands Pool, Bern, Switzerland

  • The then President of the Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro while shaking hands with President-elect Silvio Berlusconi after the formation of the his government by the outcome of the elections of March 28, 1994

    The then President of the Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro while shaking hands with President-elect Silvio Berlusconi after the formation of the his government by the outcome of the elections of March...

  • Graffiti in favor of the referendum of June 2, 1946

    Graffiti in favor of the referendum of June 2, 1946

  • The Milan Riots of 6-8 May 1898: citizens in revolt construct the great barricade of Corso Garibaldi.

    The Milan Riots of 6-8 May 1898: citizens in revolt construct the great barricade of Corso Garibaldi.

  • Paulo Barile and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on the day of faith in his Government in the Senate

    Paulo Barile and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on the day of faith in his Government in the Senate

  • The President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano during the live TV transmission of the Year message Italians from his studio at the Quirinale, 31 December 2006

    The President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano during the live TV transmission of the Year message Italians from his studio at the Quirinale, 31 December 2006

Next

Politics and Institutions

What does it take to be a modern nation? There probably is no univocal answer that can be universally applied. In general, one might say that a nation is modern when it is able to align itself with the most advanced experiences of international society, and to respond positively to appeals for change, proposing, albeit within certain limits, original solutions that may serve as an example to others. For mid-nineteenth century Italy, having lost its political unity many centuries before and having participated in European history mostly in a subordinate role, being a modern nation would imply the achievement of unity and independence through the realization – albeit belated – of a Nation State and, in this status, play a significant role in international politics. This modernity, however, was only relative. Post-unification Italy was a backward country in many respects, marked by profound inequalities, where the liberal and moderate ruling class was restricted, in some ways almost besieged. The defeat of Mazzini's democratic movement and the severing of relations with the Catholic Church following the capture of Rome substantially restricted the "area of legitimacy" and limited the State's social foundations. Consequently, the liberals of the Historic Right tried to overcome Italy's fragility with a balancing policy that aimed to transpose and extend the organization of the Kingdom of Sardinia to the rest of the country. With the passing of the years, however, this prudent and measured approach seemed increasingly unsuitable for a densely populated and relatively extended country; and a country that was going through the first phase of an economic transformation that was changing its social fabric. Once again the question of modernity comes up: how can a political-institutional structure be consolidated with the Catholics now estranged and with the emergence of a socialist union movement? Could the answer be: reaction and exclusion or inclusion through an arduous passage from parliamentarianism to full democracy? All these answers were considered. The liberals of the Historic Left formulated a programme of reforms that aimed at favouring a progressive extension of the fundaments of the unitary state but were unable, however, to actually implement it. Francesco Crispi attempted to take an authoritarian shortcut towards modernity, claiming that a strong and efficient state guaranteed the effectiveness of public action and prosperity through the repression of the workers' movement and the limitation of political freedom. Finally, Giovanni Giolitti, after the worse crisis in the post-unification liberal state, dismissed Crispi's idea and prioritised a full democratization, clashing, however with the country's growing dissimilarities and above all with a substantial lack of interlocutors . Even in foreign policy, Italy was caught between reality and aspirations. Could it consider itself one of Europe's great powers? Was it able to walk the path of international prestige? Adhering to the Triple Alliance certainly went in that direction, but the disastrous outcome of Italy's tardy colonialism is indicative of the objective limitations in the country's ability to play the role of a leading power; though such aspiration was never questioned. This resulted in ambivalent, and in certain cases, ambiguous politics, aimed at gaining the greatest advantage possible by liaising with the strongest nations and at the same time leaving open the possibility of a change of alliances. This attitude was confirmed when Italy took a neutral position in 1914 and then entered the First World War, which, though it led to the final dismissal of Giolitti's experiment and served as an incubator for an anti-democratic and anti-parliamentarian approach, did not solve the problem of Italian identity in the international scene. When the war ended, Italy found itself in the paradoxical situation of being one of the winning powers and at the same time profoundly dissatisfied with the peace, while it failed to grow towards a modern parliamentary system. In fact, the rise of modern mass parties and the final crisis of the post-unification liberal state were the consequence of a persistent political instability and post-war tensions, which would give rise to fascism. In some specific aspects, like the management of consensus and political communication, the fascist dictatorship represented a first step for Italy towards the modern mass society – albeit in a mediated and subordinate form and at the cost of sacrificing political freedom. Fascism, however, in its gradual build up towards dictatorship, compromising with other centres of power like the Catholic Church and the monarchy and formally respecting the state's constitutional norms, was, on the whole, a new reactionary attempt to solve the contradictions and frustrations generated by modernity. The final outcome of this attempt was catastrophic to say the least, because with the military defeat and the armistice of 1943 Italy once more lost, albeit temporarily, its independence and unity. Although it is true that the majority of the population did not take part in the Resistance, the latter had a fundamental role in the civil rebirth of the country. In spite of the fact that its more advanced aspirations were soon shelved, it enabled a stable affirmation of the mass parties, finally guaranteeing that vast popular involvement which, up to then, the Italian State had substantially denied. Furthermore, the anti-fascist parties, working in concert at the drafting of the republican constitution and the peace treaty negotiations, were able to bring about their transition towards democracy, while laying the foundations for the subsequent industrial transformation and for the stable placement of Italy within the international scene from an Atlantic and European perspective. However, the emergence of the Cold War fossilized Italian democracy, excluding the socialist-communist parties from any possible government alternation. Even then, Alcide De Gasperi had sensed the risks implied in this situation, in particular of having to resort to the support of reactionary and neo-fascist political forces to guarantee the survival of Christian Democrat led governments; but he had been unable to do anything about it. A new and jarring contrast thus surfaced between a country that, with the industrial boom, was heading almost anarchically towards the mass society and the substantial stagnation of the political-institutional system. When, after a long and complex gestation, it was finally possible to widen the government majority to the socialists, with the centre-left formula, the political moods of the single parties and the changing economic situation slowed down, if not prevented, the country's modernization with an ambitious structural reforms program. This wasted opportunity finds its nemesis in the ‘68 protest movements that opened a dark decade marked by the recession and a dangerous instability of the political-institutional order. The concerns of the moderate parties with regard to these protests, the success of the unions and the growth of the Communist Party, added to the outrageous scandals and the trail of blood left behind by terrorism, actually appeared to put Italy's democracy at risk and drove the communists, led by Enrico Berlinguer, to support Christian Democrat led governments, though remaining in the opposition. Once this phase of emergency was over, there was a return to a reformulation of the centre-left alliance which would characterize the entire Eighties, the five-party coalition government. A dynamic element of this system was Bettino Craxi's Socialist Party, which, having failed to establish the principle of alternate government and to create a liberal-democrat alternative to the Christian Democrats and the Communists, established itself within the nerve centres of power, soon, however, getting embroiled in them. The deterioration of a political system by now defined as "party-dominated" with its pervasive corruption, scandals and inefficiency, generated a growing popular unrest which found its breeding ground in the "northern league" phenomenon which had been seriously underestimated by the government parties which at this stage were launched in increasingly pale replicas of the five party coalition. The end of the cold war, which substantially guaranteed political unity to the Catholics and a democracy without the principle of alternating majorities, drove the political system to a state of extreme tension. Tangentopoli ("Bribesville") was the last straw and the system disintegrated with striking speed, in a moment in which the country was facing serious budgetary difficulties as well as attacks from organized crime. The "Second Republic" was born into a period of chaotic and unjustified optimism. The majority system adopted should have guaranteed a stable alternating majority democracy, but already by 1994 the elections brought about an unstoppable process of party fragmentation. In substance, the transition never took place, but rather generated two political fronts of undefined identity and of ever changing composition, while the political scene seemed to revolve around the vicissitudes of Silvio Berlusconi, at the cost of unprecedented institutional rowdiness and increasing impediments to government action.

Route

  • Creation of the unitary state (1848-1871)

    The Italian Risorgimento was characterized by the prevalence of the moderate element and strived to emerge as a progressive and increasingly rapid expansion of the Savoy... >>

  • Liberal Italy (1861-1914)

    The post-unification state started off on fragile ground. The country was largely underdeveloped, the majority of the population was illiterate; there were profound differences,... >>

  • Italy: one of the great powers? (1870-1919)

    In terms of geographic position and population, Italy could well aspire to the status of a great European power, but the internal difficulties of the post-Risorgimento state and... >>

  • Fascist Italy (1919-1945)

    The years immediately following the First World War saw the liberal governments led by Francesco Saverio Nitti and Giovanni Giolitti striving to implement a democratic... >>

  • The republic and the constitution (1945-1957)

    Considering the disasters that fascism and the war had brought upon Italy, the years that followed the end of the hostilities proved somewhat miraculous: finally the country was... >>

  • The years of growth (1952-1968)

    At the beginning of the Fifties, De Gasperi had already acknowledged the decline of centrism, or rather that formula of government in which a strong Christian Democrat party... >>

  • The years of the crisis (1968-1979)

    The long decade which opened with the 1968 protests was probably the darkest period in the history of the Republic, during which the political-institutional system began to... >>

  • The Eighties (1980-1992)

    The 1979 elections marked the end of the season of the "historic compromise" and of national solidarity to open the way to a new phase for the centre-left, articulated around... >>

  • The crisis of the “First Republic” (1992-1993)

    As devastating as it may have been, the "bribesville" scandal (Tangentopoli) was not the only cause of the collapse of the "First Republic" and the... >>

  • The lines of the present (1994-2015)

    The chain of events triggered by the break out of Tangentopoli led to a redefinition of the Italian political system inappropriately named the "Second Republic", even... >>


Search

Filter by date