Andrea Mammone and Giuseppe Veltri, Ed. Italy Today. the Sick Man of Europe

By Fogu, Claudio | Italica, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Andrea Mammone and Giuseppe Veltri, Ed. Italy Today. the Sick Man of Europe


Fogu, Claudio, Italica


Andrea Mammone and Giuseppe Veltri, ed. Italy Today. The Sick Man of Europe. London: Routledge, 2010.

The editors of this collection have set for themselves quite an ambitious task: to speak of contemporary Italian politics, economy, and society, ignoring "the elephant in the room" (8), (ex-)Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. They have thus opted for producing a study focused on the "chronic fatigue" and "systemic crisis" (8) that are affiicting Italian society, but they seem to ignore the cacophony of conflicting and incompatible representations that characterize contemporary Italian public discourse. To accomplish this task, the editors have assembled a truly remarkable slate of twenty-three first-rate scholars, each of them dutifully assigned to and quite successfully accomplishing a diagnosis of the several socio-political tumors affiicting this novel "sick man of Europe" (an unfortunate image bearing no useful parallel with the original one attached by Tzar Nicholas I to the Ottoman Empire). The results, in this reviewer's estimation, are quite impressive, if not comforting--given the seriousness of the malady analyzed. In the first place, the strategy of systematically avoiding personalizing the crisis around the figure of Berlusconi is not only refreshing but also quite foretelling in the light of current events: with Berlusconi forced out of power not by a vote of the Italian electorate, but by a crisis of confidence in the international markets and among European leaders in both the Italian economy and the ability of the Italian political system to come to terms with the crisis, the theoretical premises of this book have been bored out by reality. Accordingly, particular attention may be given by some readers (and this reviewer) to some of the prescriptions proposed by some of the analysts in the collection.

A second praiseworthy trait of Italy Today is its organization and the proportional relationship among the various illnesses identified: the political system is given the crown of the sickest organ in the overall organism with ten articles (in two sections, respectively called "Politics and Society" and "Institutional[ized] Exclusion?') dedicated to politics and institutions, followed, symptomatically, by a section of four articles on the economy. Two articles each are reserved instead for two topics, the politics of memory and the southern question, that may have commanded first place in comparable collections dedicated to the "first republic." Accordingly, the first message emerging from the organization of this collection is that while the intertwined maladies that have mined the unity of the Italian nation in its first 130 years of life--the southern question and the memory of fascism--persist, the bubonic focus of the contemporary Italian plague resides in the way its political and economic systems have changed their traditional relationship and configuration over the past two decades. In this respect, the final strength of this collection is to suggest a reversal of the all-too-comfortable image of an anthropological divide between Berlusconi(sm) and the healthy body of a nation: in Mannone-Veltri's editorial hands, Italy sheds its tragic composure of character in search of an author, to assume the posture of an Arlequin wearing an appropriately grotesque mask. …

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