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By Manlio Graziano

This ebook offers a political, financial, sociological, and cultural historical past of Italy that appears at its problems with the duty of nation-building.

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In Italy, in any case, this “anomaly” has often produced a pathological degeneration: Fascism went so far as to codify this, by superimposing the roles of the party and the state, and by the latter’s seizure of key economic sectors; the republic roughly maintained this confusion, despite a strictly liberal constitution, by perpetuating organic links between a Christian Democratic “party-state” and the key centers of economic control. It is thus not surprising that once this mechanism ceased functioning in one direction—from politics toward the economy—it began functioning in the opposite direction.

Of course, other factors contributed to this outcome: demographic movements, growth in external trade, the expansion of the monetary economy, the appearance of new competitors in central and southern Europe as well as in Mediterranean trade, the threat presented by Turkish advances, and finally, geographic discoveries, although their real effects would become clear only much later. But if one wanted to synthesize this abortive process, one could say that each of the five city-regions that then dominated on the peninsula—Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice, and Naples—was too strong to allow one of its rivals to impose hegemony on it and too “weak” to succeed in imposing it.

That gave rise, in effect, to converging movements of the commercial bourgeoisie toward the absolute state (helping it extend the means of communication and defend against the nobility and competitors), and of the absolute state toward the commercial bourgeoisie (furnishing it, through taxes and credit, with the means to finance its administration and its wars). This tendency toward the formation of national states (as they would be called much later) took shape at a time when the decline of the Italian states had already reached a relatively advanced stage.

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