Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe

Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe

Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe

Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe


Italy Today represents one of the most comprehensive examinations of contemporary Italy. It is a provocative and an innovative collection that aims to highlight the current 'crisis' of the country through an analysis of several different 'dark shadows' of contemporary Italian society.

Italy already had a long history of 'unsolved' issues, several chronic problems and contradictions that have been ignored for a very long time, during which they have assumed dramatic proportions and gravity. The peninsula has now become the 'Sick Man of Europe', a country facing a veritable decline also caused by apparent incapacity and difficulties of the ruling economic, political and social elites.

Discussions include:

  • an evaluation of the current predicaments of the political system
  • analysis of emerging mafias, including new powerful crime organizations such as 'Ndrangheta
  • issues surrounding the ongoing presence of Fascism
  • examination of the recent xenophobic tensions
  • discussion of problems associated with the missed opportunity of the EU funding, and the increasing regional economic gaps
  • outline of the systemic troubles of Italy's economic and industrial system.

Written by leading experts in the field and covering a wide range of topics, this collection is essential reading for all those seeking to understand the issues and problems that are facing contemporary Italy.


Paul Corner

One does not have to be particularly old to be able to remember the smiling face of a triumphant Bettino Craxi when, in 1987, he announced to the press that Italy had ‘overtaken’ Britain and become the world’s fifth largest industrial power. The claim hit the headlines and seemed to confirm the image of an Italy back on track after the dark years of the 1970s, when terrorism and industrial unrest had interrupted the progress of the nation of the economic ‘miracle’. If the sorpasso was contested at the time (by the British, understandably, but also by some Italians) and if it was not true in every respect, there was clearly enough justification in the claim to warrant Craxi’s radiant smile. The passage of twenty years has changed the picture dramatically. In the midst of the current financial crisis it is difficult to know what the position is at present – sometimes it looks very much like a race to the bottom – but, until little more than a year ago, there could have been few doubts that the Italian ‘overtaking’ of Britain had been reversed almost at the outset and that Italy has been falling behind not only Britain, but most other European competitors for many years. The heady days of the expansion of Italy’s famous small industries – something that seemed a model for the world – have long passed, and the cult of ‘Made in Italy’ has to some extent lost its sheen. Certainly, lifestyle, food, fashion and culture keep Italy in the forefront of popular perceptions, but the image of Italy portrayed by the world press, in political and economic terms, is now almost universally that of a country in slow but very steady decline, moving not towards the economic levels of France, Germany and Britain but towards those of Greece and Portugal. There is an undoubted element of journalistic exaggeration in the phrase, but for the foreign press Italy has become, as the title of this volume indicates, very much ‘the Sick Man of Europe’.

It is tempting to explain this decline with reference to the more evident shortterm factors. Very predictably the controversial figure of Silvio Berlusconi, who has in many ways dominated the history of the so-called Second Republic, is often at the centre of such explanations. Berlusconi is better known outside Italy for his gaffes than for any great speeches and he undoubtedly makes for good press copy. Foreign correspondents are able to point to a whole list of questions relating to the Italian Prime Minister which suggest an unusual political situation in Italy, to say the least. These range from the more substantial issues concerning Berlusconi’s conflict of interest through his very extensive control of the media . . .

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