Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914

Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914

by Susan A. Ashley

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Overview

By most accounts, Italian-style liberalism failed. Explanations of its failure vary from economic backwardness or a political culture shaped by autocracy to claims that liberals ruined their chances by pursuing nothing but narrow middle class interests. This study examines the liberal record to weigh the accuracy of these approaches. Ashley focuses on three controversial issues: public works, social reform, and public order. The railroads would test liberal commitment to laissez-faire, labor laws their pledge to protect all citizens, and dissent their allegiance to individual rights. In each case, liberals compromised their principles. What they decided defined the Italian variant of liberalism by transforming it from a doctrine to concrete practices and political behaviors.

Particularly after 1890, liberals increasingly made empiricism the primary justification for policy and dismissed abstract principles as beneath notice. This shift helps explain why liberalism lost authority and credibility as a set of moral imperatives and as a coherent world view in Italy, as well as why it failed to offer most Italians a compelling alternative to either Socialsim or Fascism. Examining what liberals said and did, however, does not entirely support the despairing judgment of so many historians. Italian liberals managed to build a liberal state and to make it function against intransigent obstacles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780275980627
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/30/2003
Series: Italian and Italian American Studies
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Susan A. Ashley is professor of history at Colorado College. She received her BA from Carleton College and her MA, European Institute Certificate, and PhD from Columbia University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Governing Italy

Private Enterprise and Public Works

Private Interests and the Public Good

The State and Social Justice

Finding Ways to Reform

Law and Order

Liberty in Law

Liberalism the Italian Way

Epilogue: Liberalism and Fascism

Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

Hines H. Hall Associate Professor

Challenging a view prevalent among historians that Italian liberalism was ineffectual in developing solutions to social and political problems, and, by implication, that it doomed Italy to eventual Fascist dictatorship, Ashley's meticulous scholarship sustains a generally more positive depiction of Italian liberals and their accomplishments. Ashley's interpretation is likely to set the standard for further analysis and to define the major issues in this field for some time to come.

Dennis Showalter

"Professor Ashley's comprehensive scholarship and sophisticated analysis adds a new dimension to our understanding of the complex relationships between economic development and political relationships in an Italy still struggling to come to terms with the consequence of national unification."

K. Steven Vincent

"Susan Ashley has succeeded in presenting a complex historically grounded account of late-19th century Italian liberalism. By focusing on how Italian liberals responded to the contentious issues of public order, social reform, and public works, she illustrates how abstract principles were transformed into concrete policy. The book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of European liberalism."

Hines H. Hall^LAssociate Professor


Challenging a view prevalent among historians that Italian liberalism was ineffectual in developing solutions to social and political problems, and, by implication, that it doomed Italy to eventual Fascist dictatorship, Ashley's meticulous scholarship sustains a generally more positive depiction of Italian liberals and their accomplishments. Ashley's interpretation is likely to set the standard for further analysis and to define the major issues in this field for some time to come.

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