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Italy And Its Discontents: 1980 To 2001 New Ed Edition
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"Italy and Its Discontents" is the sequel. Although at times Ginsborg is somewhat cheery and optimistic, this is a depressing tale. In many ways it is a complex and nuanced tale, as Ginsborg discusses with enviable nuance the strengths and weaknesses of the Italian economy, the decline of the industrial working class and the plague of youth employment, the always persistent "Southern" problem, the clash between mass culture and a rising "civil society," and the many weaknesses of the Italian bureaucracy. He pays particular attention to the changes in the family, the rise of secularism, and the decline of Catholic and Communist cultures. He also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Italian politics, the complexities of corruption and the mafia, the less than impartial judiciary, and the complexities and failures of political ideologies.
And yet in some crucial ways Ginsborg's tale is very simple. Italian democracy in the 1980s was severely flawed both by corruption and by the success of vested interests in preventing, delaying or diluting vital reforms. The most honest and thoughtful party were the Communists, so much of the energy of its political class was dedicated to making sure they never had power.Read more ›
On the other hand, I hate the way Ginsborg writes. He never lets the reader draw his own conclusions. He prefers to let you know what you should think in advance. I'll choose a small section on the Catholic Church as an example: He starts off by saying "... the Catholic Church in the 1980's and the 1990's communicated messages which, to the outside eye, seemed deeply contradictory." Well, OK but why not present your evidence first and then let the reader decide. He goes on to say that Church under Karol Wojtyla has often been interpreted as "the reassertion... of the traditions of the Polish Church heavily marked,,, by rural millenarianism and the fight for survival against a hostile state."(p. 129). Interpreted how "often" and by whom? I get the part about the "hostile state"( Communist Poland) but what the heck is "rural millenarianism"? Maybe it has "often" been interpreted as asserting "urban millenarianism" or Jansenism or something else. How is the reader to know. But not to worry Mr.Ginsborg tells us that the existence of these elements is "undeniable". I certainly can't deny it because I don't know what he's talking about. On the next page he refers to Pius XII's "brutal" phrase of 1931, "the family is not there to serve society; it is society which is there to serve the family." There are a lot of words that come to mind to describe that statement, "pithy", "simplistic" maybe but "brutal" doesn't immediately jump out.Read more ›