Recent Italian Politics in Historical Perspective
We were delighted that Paul Ginsborg took the Political Quarterly annual lecture on Tuesday 25 November 2014, 6.00 - 8.00 pm at the Institute for Government. The lecture, entitled 'Recent Italian politics in historical perspective' can be viewed here.
By whatever measuring rod one cares to adopt – economic, political, cultural – the Italian Republic has undoubtedly been in increasing difficulty since the early 1990s. The long dominion of Silvio Berlusconi in Italian politics has been only one, albeit highly significant, expression of a general decline, which has been accelerated by the global crisis from 2008 onwards. Faced with this situation, many distinguished commentators, both internal and external, have expressed doom-laden sentiments about Italy’s destiny. It is difficult to disagree with much of what they say, but I would like to urge caution. The Italian Republic – references to a second or third Republic seem to me to be rather spurious – has shown a remarkable capacity to survive. To explain why this is so, I intend to adopt a predominantly historical perspective, concentrating on three areas of enquiry: Italy’s cultural specificity as a Catholic and Mediterranean country; the perennial role of strong families acting as buffers against crises of varying dimensions; and the long-term European performance of Italy in relation to what Edward Thompson once called ‘the great arch of bourgeois revolution’. The picture that emerges is neither comforting nor cataclysmic.