Skip to main content

About this book

Italy is well known for its prominent economists, as well as for the typical public profile they have constantly revealed. But, when facing an illiberal and totalitarian regime, how closely did Italian economists collaborate with government in shaping its economic and political institutions, or work independently? This edited book completes a gap in the history of Italian economic thought by providing a complete work on the crucial link between economics and the Fascist regime, covering the history of political economy in Italy during the so-called “Ventennio” (1922-1943) with an institutional perspective. The approach is threefold: analysis of the academic and extra-academic scene, where economic science was elaborated and taught, the connection between economics, society and politics, and, dissemination of scientific debate. Special attention is given to the bias caused by the Fascist regime to economic debate and careers.

This Volume I deals with the economics profession under Fascism, in particular in light of the political and institutional changes that the regime introduced, the restructuring of higher education, the restriction of freedom in teaching and of the press, and with respect to promoting its own strategies of political and ideological propaganda.

Volume II (available separately) considers the public side of the economics profession, the “fascistisation” of culture and institutions, banishment and emigration of opponents, and post-WW2 purge of Fascist economists.

Table of Contents


Italian Economics and Fascism: An Institutional View

Being an economist under a totalitarian regime is highly problematic. This chapter presents the approach and internal structure of the book, which represents the first general attempt to examine the relationships between economics and dictatorships in the case of Italian fascism. The chapter illustrates the institutional approach adopted in the book, its previous applications, and how it can highlight the problems faced by the economics profession under the fascist regime. The chapter ends up explaining the organisation of the book, which systematically reconstructs all aspects of the economists’ scientific and public life and of their relationships with power. The chapter must be read jointly with Chapter “Italian Economists and the Fascist Regime:​ Only an Ambiguous and Painful Continuity?​” to obtain a general appraisal of the problems that the book attempts to analyse.
Massimo M. Augello, Marco E. L. Guidi, Fabrizio Bientinesi

Italian Economists and the Fascist Regime: Only an Ambiguous and Painful Continuity?

The chapter provides an overview on Italian economics under the fascist regime. The period saw the strengthening of academic institutionalisation and the rise of a new profile of economic expert operating in State-owned companies. Conversely, the dictatorship interrupted the traditional free circuit of ideas between theory and policy. While fascist censorship was engaged in inspecting comments on official economic policies, the economic profession watched over the recruitment of academics to defend the scientific level of the discipline. The compromises which academics were forced to accept generated a majority of passive fascist economists and only a minority of assenting economist fascists. It was with the racial laws of 1938, which excluded Jewish citizens from holding public positions, that the world of Italian economists was turned upside down.
Piero Barucci

The Persistence of Tradition: The Economists in the Law Faculties and in the Higher Institutes of Business Studies

The economists teaching in Italian universities formed influential schools which produced the country’s elites. The relationship between these schools and fascism is varied and complex. Despite some particular features due to fascist legislation, the development of the Italian system of university education did not differ from that of other European countries. The investigation conducted in this chapter on the universities’ transition from the liberal age to the fascist “era” offers a description of the salient episodes marking the relationship between the economists and the regime. The reconstruction of both institutional and theoretical aspects, accompanied by a careful study of the political and social context, forms the basis for a tentative interpretation of the history of Italy between the two world wars.
Simone Misiani, Manuela Mosca

The Faculties of Political Sciences and Schools for Advanced Corporative Studies

The fascist regime created six faculties of political sciences and many academic degrees in political sciences in the faculties of law, with the double aim of forming the State administrative staff and of shaping the new ruling class of the country. From 1928 on, the regime also created post-graduate specialisation schools in corporative studies, to support the establishment of a corporatist structure in the Italian economy. On the one hand, the result was an increase in economic teaching, but, on the other hand, many shortcomings prevented the reaching of the regime’s goals. In the early 1940s, the government tried to reform the faculties of political sciences and the corporatist schools, but the ongoing war hindered these attempts, and the experiment completely failed.
Fabrizio Bientinesi, Marco Cini

The Economic Culture of Academic Journals during Fascism

The aim of this chapter is to investigate the economic culture shaped and spread by Italian academic journals during the fascist period. The paper is organised around two sections, differing from both a chronological and a methodological viewpoint. In the first section, using a traditional approach based on textual content analysis, the study focuses by way of example on two topics: the revaluation of the Lira and the Great Depression. In the second section, the chapter applies an innovative approach deriving from corpus linguistics, consisting of a special method for retracing frequencies and sequences in the use of words, in order to highlight some features of the reception of corporatism in academic journals.
Antonio Magliulo, Gianfranco Tusset

“Generalist” Journals between Dissemination of Economics and Regime Propaganda

In the early twentieth century, “generalist” journals—which had their peak of popularity in the previous century—continued to accommodate the contributions of economists, making a specific room for economic debate. However, with the affirmation of the fascist ideology, generalist periodicals progressively ceased to exist or to host economists’ articles. This chapter discusses the interplay between generalism and specialisation and identifies the events which produced the decaying of generalist journalism in the interwar period. After examining the main journals of this category, and the impact of the fascist regime on their vicissitudes, it focuses on the two most representative generalist journals of the time—Nuova Antologia and Echi e Commenti—showing how survival to fascist censorship implied their transformation into compliant means of regime propaganda.
Francesca Dal Degan, Fabrizio Simon

Textbooks of Economics during the Ventennio: Forging the Homo Corporativus?

The chapter surveys forty textbooks of economics and related disciplines published in Italy during fascism. It tries to understand to what extent those textbooks contributed to the regime’s goal of creating the ideal fascist citizen, the so-called homo corporativus. It is argued that, at least in their didactic works, a majority of Italian economists were rather unsupportive of that goal and endorsed corporatist ideas only superficially.
Riccardo Faucci, Nicola Giocoli

Series of Economics and Encyclopaedias: Traditional Economic Theory and New Paths

The chapter reviews the contribution of series of economics and encyclopaedias to the development of Italian economic thought in the interwar period, providing general information on the main series of economics (especially on Nuova collana di economisti stranieri e italiani) and major encyclopaedias (Enciclopedia italiana, Dizionario di politica, Enciclopedia bancaria). The following topics are treated: (i) Can a single specific line of fascist economic thought be identified, or on the contrary the case was that there were a few authors who attempted to elaborate a corporatist theory clearly distinct from traditional theory, and various economists who opted for a conciliation between corporatism and traditional theory? (ii) To what extent was Italian economic thought influenced by more radical attempts to construct a new economic theory or alternatively by the proponents of a less conflictual balance between the two approaches? and (iii) Can the works examined here be considered marked by regime propaganda or have they left a more lasting trace?
Carlo Cristiano, Massimo Di Matteo

Correction to: “Generalist” Journals between Dissemination of Economics and Regime Propaganda

Francesca Dal Degan, Fabrizio Simon


Additional information

Premium Partner

    Image Credits