Numero 4
ottobre - dicembre 2014 anno 55

Abstract degli articoli

Di Vittorio, the CGIL, and the Communist Party between Labour Plan and «Cassa per il Mezzogiorno»

This essay reconstructs the attitudes of CGIL leader Giuseppe Di Vittorio in favour of the institution and politics of the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno. In particular, it analyses Di Vittorio’s support for the industrialisation plan for Southern Italy produced by Pasquale Saraceno and SVIMEZ in the Congress organized by the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno in late 1953. These statements by the CGIL leader were criticized and condemned by PCI leadership, and by Giorgio Amendola and Mario Alicata in particular. Giuseppe Di Vittorio was thus forced to issue dramatic self-criticism.

Reconstruct «Iniziativa Democratica»? The DC from Domus Mariae to the Congress of Florence

The crisis that struck Iniziativa Democratica in 1959 was one of the most delicate and complex periods in Christian Democratic history. This article analyses Aldo Moro’s political action in the first months of his term as DC secretary, with particular reference to the attempt to repair the breach between the two sections of the majority faction that followed Amintore Fanfani’s resignation and, at the same time, to ensure the unity of the entire party.

Il presente come Storia

War, States, and Movements: With Tilly; Beyond Tilly

In his scientific output, Charles Tilly broke new ground in two major areas: the study of war and state-building, and the study of contentious politics and social movements. Many scholars followed and elaborated on each of these strands, but few – including Tilly – attempted to link them to one another. Both in the historical study of war and state-building, and in recent «new wars», social movements – and contentious politics in general – play a vigorous but a poorly-understood role. Building on four historical examples – the French revolutionary wars, the American Civil War, the Italian fascist state, and the development of the national security state in the United States during the «global war on terror» – this article argues that the United States after 9/11 has not become a «Schmittian» state, but one that uses the instruments of «infrastructural power» to control and mobilize civil society. The difference lies in the capacity of civil society’s actors to use these instruments to contest – and at times to reverse – the state’s power in wartime.

Capitalism and democracy in the Twenty-First Century

Following a large number of studies on inequality, and relying on a unique collection of data from twenty countries, the work of Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, explores the fundamental dynamics that have been driving the accumulation and distribution of capital since the eighteenth century, arguing that neither economic growth nor the spread of knowledge have modified the deep structure of capital and its intrinsic tendency to generate inequality. In reviewing Piketty’s book, the author contends that French economists waver between two different approaches, one of which consistent with their neoclassical background, and the other with their attempt to bring political, social and cultural factors (and, more generally, power) into a much broader analytic framework, where capitalism figures as a historical system. This uncertainty becomes even more evident as Piketty underestimates the role and meaning of financialization over the last forty years, and the way it has reshaped both the pattern of accumulation and the power relations between labour and capital. Lastly, the author emphasizes that the worrying prospect of a return to nineteenth-century patrimonial capitalism – about which Piketty warns us – is paralleled by political and institutional processes that undermine or erode the modern forms of democratic accountability.

On some recent interpretations of National Socialism: «Volksgemeinschaft», «Täterforschung», «Neue Staatlichkeit»

The article examines the current state of the historiography on National Socialism, reviewing recent literature in three fields of research: first, the scholarship – especially the studies published by Michael Wildt – that uses the concept of Volksgemeinschaft as an analytical tool for understanding political and social mobilization in National Socialism; second, the so-called «research on the perpetrators» (Täterforschung), which examines the dynamics of violence through a biographical approach; thirdly, the scholarship that applies the concept of New Statehood (Neue Staatlichkeit) to interpret the function of administrative structures in the Third Reich. Lastly, the article shows what features these research fields have in common, and places them under critical scrutiny.

The Ottoman Threat, Venice and Cardinal Bessarion’s «propagandistic» strategies

In the middle of the fifteenth century, Bessarion came to symbolize the defence of Byzantine culture and the struggle against the Ottomans, devoting himself to overcoming Christian divisions and to gaining Westerners’ essential support. Above all, although aware of Venice’s paramount interest in its own overseas trade, he was persuaded of the Serenissima’s key role in the anti-Turkish war. He was supported by a group of Venetian humanist patricians, who favoured armed intervention in the East. In this essay, I study Bessarion’s propaganda strategy. On the one hand, he invoked God’s protection and the renewal of classical values, while on the other he urged gaining knowledge of the enemy, and military reaction. Therefore, he used relics, especially of Eastern provenance, and solemn ceremonies, to increase the Papacy’s prestige and to urge anti-Ottoman action, as well as several exempla of the classical past, such as Demosthenes’ call for concord among Greek nations against the Macedonian invasion. In the same way, Bessarion called Westerners, in his Orationes ad principes Italiae, to unite against the common foe, pointing first – in the current view – to its undeniable strength and the necessity to fight it, and in the end reassessing the Turks in objective reality.

Privateers and military mobile defense of the coasts: the Genoese case in the second half of the 17th century

The War of Devolution (1667-1668) officially reopened the military conflict between France and Spain that had been brought to a close less than ten years earlier in the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The Ligurian Sea was to become the scene of incessant privateering warfare between the naval units of the two European crowns: a sort of maritime appendix of the conflict for European domination. The capture of several Genoese boats forced the government of the Republic of Genoa to study countermeasures. Unlike traditional Barbary privateering, which aimed to make raids on land, this privateering between Christian states amounted to a lower-grade sea war. To protect its sovereignty over the Ligurian Sea, the Republic had to abandon the system of coastal towers, relying on a naval patrol that was as continuous as possible. Analyzing the activity of Genoese galleys, this essay highlights the difficulties of the Republic, among which the need to stem the attacks of French and Spanish privateering, and a healthy political realism. The purpose is to highlight the particular features of the Republic of Genoa: a small state forced to oscillate constantly between the defense of its own jurisdiction and obedience to the reasons of high diplomacy.

Aristocratic material culture in eighteenth-century Naples: the example of the Carafa di Jelsi family
The history of material culture is a field of research in which, nowadays, economic, social and cultural aspects of material life are studied together. An analysis of the inventories included in two civil trials attempts to reconstruct the material culture of two members of the Carafa di Jelsi (a minor branch of an ancient Neapolitan aristocratic family), who died respectively in 1727 and 1763. Some elements stand out: the different lifestyles in their urban or country houses; the signs of their cultural activities; the dual function of their jewellery serving both as an economic asset and for the ostentation of power; the social and symbolic importance of the aristocratic table; the display need for ceremonial dress. On the one hand, these costly elements appear to have stimulated the urban handicrafts economy; on the other, however, they led most of the aristocratic families to fall into debt.

Student riots in Venice in 1882 and 1885
During the 1880s, the Higher School of Commerce of Venice (afterward known as Ca’ Foscari University) was the scene of student riots driven by irredentist and republican demands. Following the hanging of Italian irredentist Guglielmo Oberdan on 20 December 1882, Venetian students met to protest against his execution by the Austrians, and voted to place a commemorative stone in his honour at the entrance to Ca’ Foscari. Their initiative was harshly repressed by the School’s director and liberal economist Francesco Ferrara. In mid-March 1885, a larger group of Ca’ Foscari undergraduates expressed public solidarity with their Turin fellows, whose demonstration against the academic council’s decision to forbid a memorial to the students fallen in 1821 had been broken up violently by the police. They interrupted classes, occupied classrooms and committed acts of vandalism. The academic body, in agreement with the government, responded to the situation by closing the School for a month, suspending three students and admonishing thirteen others.

Parliament, the land issue and the lack of legislation (1894)

In 1894, the Parliament of liberal Italy repeatedly faced, as had never occurred since Unification, the problem of the distribution of landed property. Historiography has on several occasions focused on Crispi’s important initiative, which took shape in the well-known bill Enfiteusi dei beni degli enti morali e sui miglioramenti dei latifondi dei privati nelle provincie siciliane. But this did not take place in isolation. Through research conducted mainly in the archives of Parliament, as well as Boselli, Chimirri, Ferraris, Marcora, Pandolfi, Rinaldi, and Socci, this paper documents how the bills that were presented aimed at impairing the structure of landed property and/or the power of landlords. Like the Crispina, these initiatives, too, were unsuccessful. Their importance, however, is considerable. The lack of legislation signals the (irreversible) crisis of the authoritativeness of landed property, and shows that within the state’s central institutions, starting from the age of Crispi, there was a certain impatience with – and sometimes even an aversion to – the sacredness of the owner and the untouchability of his farm. Certainly, among parliamentarians and men of government, there was no ambition for agrarian revolution, but among some there was an awareness that the liberal system was too unbalanced, and had to be rebalanced through legislation that would courageously impose duties, responsibilities, and limits upon the capitalist.

Human Rights, Enlightenment, modernity

This essay analyzes a highly important book on Human Rights – the finest work in a field destined open enormous problems in international historiography. Ferrone crosses time and space, from antiquity to the Medieval Age, and the Christianization of Aristotelian thought at that time to create Thomistic natural law. In early modernity, the secularization of this proposal was strictly connected with science, philosophy, and a new international law created by Hobbes, van Groot, Pufendorf, and Noodt, but proposed for the future by the great mediator Jean Barbeyrac. In this way, the Rights of Man, which were to become Human Rights, are a secular creation of the Enlightenment, involving not only Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Beccaria, Voltaire, and Diderot with his great enterprise, but the American and French Revolutions as well. They are still a great hallenge for our future and for the possibility of inventing a humanity that is pacific, pluralistic, and dialogic, oriented by ethics and not by force alone.

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