Italy’s South Question
The existence of the “Southern Question” in Italy according to Schneider (1998) emerged in after 1861, which was the year of the Unification of the Italian Kingdom. The works bring to the fore images of the Mezzogiorno’s backwardness in comparison to the rest of the country and in particular, the northern. The powerful images evolved by the phrase are a representation of the difference that are there, differences which are related to poverty and underdevelopment of the southern part of the peninsula. This combination has been argued to have resulted to a clientelistic political style as well as manifestation of organized crime (Fogu, 2008; Piattoni, 1998). At home, these difference have been attributed to a set of stereotypes for example, the notion that the southerners have character traits that are completely divergent to those of the northerners. The general characterization of the northerners is that they are passionate, rebellious, undisciplined, lacking the capability to generate group unity, and incapable of building orderly, rational cultures, which is considered as being the right one, for it has led the northern to emergence of industrial capitalism (Gibson, 1998). This essay therefore will seek to expound on these answers to the southern question by looking at political, artistic and intellectual answers for the unification, interwar, and postwar periods.
Unification through World War 1
Gribaudi (1996) argues that, the southern question is mainly through perception, which was first created by the Piedmontese administrators as a result of the southern revolt against them. After the administrators had gone south, they developed images of a happy land, that is favored by the climate and kissed by the goods, but after realizing that the inhabitants were rejecting them, they changed their perception to that of a paradise inhabited by devils (Gribaudi, 1996). As a result of this negative perception, the administrators resolved to impose ‘civilization’ to the southerners through an all-means-possible method, including at gunpoint. The ‘paradise inhabited by devils’ perception meant that the ruling class, which was made up of political leaders and political administrators, made no effort to understand the culture and the institutions of the south.
However, in 1876, the Left came to power marking the entry into the political arena of the South. Nevertheless, this arena came to be dominated by groups that stood and defended the local and narrow interests, not the elite who had led the Risorgimeto (Schneider, 1998). Several of the intellectuals who had hopes of outside intervention and adoption of rational models became critics of the government for continued failure and mainly its inability to tackle the most pressing issues facing southerners, with the objective of proving the government of the day as unable to deliver on what they considered modern and dynamic objectives (Moe, 2002). As a result of these reflections, meridionalismo – the body of expertise – as an answer to the southern question was developed.
Intellectuals exploring the southern question during the unification period, according to Adler & Haas (1992), have argued that the major limitations for the Italian south were poverty and ignorance on one hand and predominance of the political class on the other. Poverty and ignorance limited the locals of the south making them incapable of defending their interests and thus, predisposing them to the political class. Predominance of the political class made they could stamp their authority and thus, aggravating the poverty and ignorance situation for the locals. This situation led to the battle of those who took up the battle of the south (Gribaudi, 1996), which is the social question aimed at explaining why there are rebellions and disturbances in the south and thus open the governments eyes to the real problems facing the population on the ground. This led to the social inquiry era with focus on the most dramatic issues for example, urban poverty, mafia violence, and peasants on large estates therefore creating sharply contrasting images for example, urban poor and the elites, and the peasants and landlords.
Other idealistic arguments that have been passed in relation to the southern question include: the southern society is incapable of self-rule and that the high level corruption in the region and only be corrected through interventions by the central government. This idea has managed to survive to present day (Fogu, 2008).
In the early 20th century, travelers to the south were appreciative of the antiquity and natural phenomena compared to their predecessors. This had been considerably as a result of the developing tourism and better understanding of the southern culture primarily through art. The abundant presence of Music in Naples and its quality and style, is among those artistic features that contributed to a new interpretation of the southern identity (Astarita, 2005). Among the travelers to the south was a French magistrate Charles de Brosses who wrote that “Naples is the capital of the musical world”. The growing artistic industry saw the development of opera in the city. Even though at the time many cities in Europe had opera, in Naples, it stood unrivaled for the better part of the century (Forgacs & Lurnley, 1996).
Opera from the south was not the only appreciated art from the region, but also architecture. During the interwar period, also referred to as the golden years of rationalist architecture, the architecture from the south Italy referred to as Mediterranean-ness grew to become polar star not only for the region, but for the country in general (Fogu, 2008). The concept of mediterranetta was argued to play for both avant-garde Italian artists and rationalists architects of the time. The concept of Mediterranean-ness architecture became the most effective line f defense in the Italian-modernist town regardless of whether it identified with a modern sense of classic which was intended to be an art of intimacy cum native depth hence accommodated equally the abstractism of Milanese painters or it identified with the solar-ness of the Italian rationalists architecture.
One of the notable artists of the interwar period is Marinetti who developed the analogical chain of Capri-Italy-Futurism by identification of the islands rock as Italian which is, rebellious, revolutionary, and lyrical just as a futuristic art (Fogu, 2008). This image of Capri-varieta indicated explicitly the major contributions of the southern futurism to the transfiguration of the Variety Theatre of Surprise. In a manifesto published in 1913, Marinetti had clearly praised the variety theatre, and the manifesto has began by praising the tradition of variety theatres of the Parisian and in particular that of folies-Bergere. This praise was mainly because of its futuristic reasons among them anticipation of the futuristic sensibility, antipassatismo, and dynamism.
The aggregate Capri-futirism-teatro di varieta image therefore indicated a new and very divergent analogical series from that of futurism-war-carso projected by L’isola dei baci. This showed futurism as the acceptance of the popular-cultural heritage of the Southern trovata. In a nutshell, during the interwar period, the difference between the North and the South were at their peak, but at the same time, art and in particular theatre and architecture from the south were being accepted not only in the entire Italy, but also in cities across Europe, thus, Marinetti argued that, these would play a crucial role in the future integration and acceptance (Petrusewicz, 1998).
Postwar (1945-present) period
In 1947, the Partito d’Azione was defeated and Italy split between communists and Catholics and thus, the federalism and regional autonomy completely disappeared from the mezzogiorno debate (Astarita, 2005). In place of these, Nitti’s idea of the promotional role of a state was adopted and re-interpreted by the Christian democrats. The DC-led governments then intervened and this operated in a manner that had been strongly criticized by Dorso, Salvemini, and Sturzo by exacerbating the level of dependency to the central government by the south (Schneider, 1998). The use of ideology was done by mixing it with images of the meridionalisti in combination with modern doctrines of economic backwardness.
Being the after-war period, international political scenes were shaken and the traditional colonialists policies where in crisis. The international agenda for developed countries had changed and now it was international markets, which was to be achieved through creation of internal demand through development initiatives in developing and underdeveloped regions (Adler & Haas, 1992). The US undertook to support war-torn economies of Europe economically, south Italy being one of them. The influence of US in south Italy therefore made significant impact through development of state intervention. USA operated through two level; theoretically through for example Roosevelt development areas, and practically through consultancy of experts from America. Some of the constancy groups used by the US in the South are Associazione per lo Sviluppo dell’Indusrtia nel Mezzogiorno (SVIMEZ), and Cassa per il Mezzogiorno (Gribaudi, 1996).
At the time, the previous images of the south, characterized by lag, were used on the new concept of underdevelopment. To understand the south, intellectuals, specifically sociologists and economists, were brought in to help define the economic features of the southern region. This was done through a series of variables including consumer demand, income, and capital consumption (Piattoni, 1998). The measurements where then used to compare the south against model developed societies. In other words, the south was considered as being at a level zero in development terms which essentially meant the south was once against without history and in a state of nature. Political interests by the DC and its allies chimed this ideology to perfection, and thus justified state intervention (Perulli, 2013).
The arrival of Banfield’s work on amoral familism in Italy from the US further changed the image of the south. The concept sought to categorize on an analytical basis, the cause of the backwardness in southern Italy. Amoral familism designated a forms of behavior meant for the realization of the good of the family (Perulli, 2013). In general, the concept points towards lack of civic consciousness as the cause of backwardness of the isolated backward society. Over the years, the history of the south has been continuously constructed and amoral familism is the perfect example. These images are constructed in the progress of the south-north dialogue and it’s disturbing that the southerners are the first to pick them up and believe in them.
The southern question is mainly through perception, which was first created by the Piedmontese administrators as a result of the southern revolt against them. Intellectuals exploring the southern question during the unification period have argued that the major limitations for the Italian south were poverty and ignorance on one hand and predominance of the political class on the other. One of the notable artists of the interwar period is Marinetti who developed the analogical chain of Capri-Italy-Futurism by identification of the islands rock as Italian which is, rebellious, revolutionary, and lyrical just as a futuristic art. After the war, international political scenes were shaken and the traditional colonialists policies where in crisis. The arrival of Banfield’s work on amoral familism in Italy from the US further changed the image of the south. Over time, the history of the south has been continuously constructed in the progress of the south-north dialogue and it’s disturbing that the southerners are the first to pick them up and believe in them.
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