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The Long History of Corporatism in Italy: A Question of Culture or Economics?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 May 2006

Dipartimento di Discipline Storiche, Università di Bologna, Italy;


This article engages with the innovatory methodological approaches within political economics that no longer seek to establish a set of universal laws applicable to a variety of cases, but to provide a convincing explanation of certain individual, exemplary cases. Recent research into public administration in twentieth-century Italy is one case that supports the theories because it postulates that what Italy is today can in part be explained by the exceptional continuity of the enti pubblici (public or government agencies) whose fortunes have been largely determined by Italy's peculiar institutional and cultural milieux. The article examines (i) the proliferation of the enti pubblici as an administrative formula in response to the economic crisis after the First World War; (ii) the periods of growth and decline in the use of this formula and its connection with politics; and (iii) the ways in which the existence of a solid and widespread corporatist culture enabled the enti to survive the fall of Fascism. It concludes that the persistence of the ente pubblico is attributable to a specific culture which is an integral part of Italy's historical identity.

Research Article
Cambridge University Press 2006

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This article is an expanded version of a paper first delivered at the Modern Italian History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, London, on 22 October 2003. It has been translated by Rosemary Williams.
Mariuccia Salvati is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Bologna. Recent publications include Cittadini e governanti. La leadership nella storia dell'Italia contemporanea (1997), Il Novecento. Interpretazioni e bilanci (2001) and the Italian edition (2004) of Emil Lederer, Lo Stato delle masse (first published 1939). She is currently preparing a book on the Fascist intellectual Camillo Pellizzi.