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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 addressing in a comprehensive way 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 the dissemination of scientific debate. Special attention is given to the bias caused by the Fascist regime to economic debate and careers. This Volume II looks at the role that economists played in society and in politics, and how this was played. In exploring the public side of the profession and the “fascistisation” of institutions, this book also examines academic epuration and emigration, and the post-WW2 purge of fascist economists.

Volume I (available separately) explores how the economics profession was managed under fascism, the restructuring of higher education, the restriction of freedom in teaching and of the press, and various fascist cultural and propaganda initiatives.

Table of Contents


Economic Expertise and Political Militancy Under Fascism: An Introduction

The chapter offers an introduction to Volume II that enables the reader who is particularly interested in its topics to get full awareness of the general design of the book, of the method followed and of the main interpretative guidelines adopted in it. The second aim of this chapter is to illustrate how this volume relates to Volume I and in what aspects it differs from it. The book is accordingly described as a study of the relationships between the economics profession and fascism through a systematic analysis of all the institutional loci that governed the production, reproduction and circulation of the economic science. The approach followed is that of the “institutional history of economics”, which places at the centre of research the framework of material and immaterial institutions within which economics has developed both as scientific and professional knowledge and as a patrimony of notions and languages that circulate in the public sphere. In this framework, while Volume I analyses the creeping resistance, the defence of academic prerogatives, the strategies of adaptation, the compromises that the community of economists adopted in response to the totalitarian strategies of the fascist regime, Volume II puts under the lens those institutions in which the economists—or rather, groups of economists with well-defined characteristics—collaborated with the policies and organisations promoted and hegemonised by the fascist regime.
Massimo M. Augello, Marco E. L. Guidi, Fabrizio Bientinesi

From Nationalism to Fascism: Protagonists and Journals

The chapter brings the history of Italian economic thought linked to fascism back to the political parable of Italian nationalism, which had two schools of thought. The first was closely linked to the birth and affirmation of pure economics and could boast authors such as Enrico Barone, Maffeo Pantaleoni and Vilfredo Pareto. The second school, on the other hand, wanted to propose a theoretical overcoming of pure economics and saw the involvement of economists such as Corrado Gini, Gino Arias and Filippo Carli. Despite the theoretical differences, there were numerous points of programmatic convergence, that is, of economic policy and politics, between these two souls of nationalism. The analysis of journals organically linked to fascism such as Gerarchia, Lo Stato and Dottrina fascista shows the evolution of what defines itself as “the fascist right”, which in Pantaleoni had a fundamental theoretical and political point of reference and which was opposed for the entire Ventennio to the social aspirations of sectors of fascist culture (the so-called left-wing fascism).
Luca Michelini

Planning and Discussing Corporatism and the “New International Order”

The chapter analyses the institutional and cultural parable of corporatism by studying the conferences promoted by the fascist regime to involve Italian economists, jurists and social scientists in providing theoretical foundations to an economic model conceived as a “third way” between liberalism and socialism. The National Conferences of Corporative Studies, organised in 1930 and 1932 by the Ministry of Corporations under the direction of Giuseppe Bottai, saw the participation of the main fascist economists who boldly justified the “reforms” introduced by Mussolini’s government to suppress free trade unions and create corporative institutions to regulate labour relations and markets. The second conference was a dramatic confrontation between the “Right” and the “Left” of the corporatist movement, from which the latter—led by Ugo Spirito, who defended the idea of distributing the capital of joint-stock companies among the workers—was forever defeated. After 1935 the regime was urgently compelled to address more urgent problems, such as autarky deriving from the embargo that the League of Nations had imposed to Italy for the invasion of Ethiopia, and, during the Second World War, the “new international order” that would emerge after the end of the war. At this stage corporatism was either openly rejected or used as a sort of nominalistic label to define a planned, authoritarian, imperial and mixed economy, inserted in an international order in which weaker countries were reduced to ancillary, non-competing economies serving the interests of the two hegemonic powers, Germany and Italy. At this stage, the main fear was the hegemony of Germany over Italy, an issue that prompted the rediscovery of more orthodox tools of economic analysis.
Fabrizio Bientinesi, Marco Cini

“Breaking Down the Ivory Tower”: Economic Culture in the Italian Academies Under Fascism

This chapter examines the role of the economists in Italian academies during the period when Mussolini’s totalitarian regime attempted to transform them into propaganda bodies for the ideology and politics of fascism. The participation of economists in the academies of science, literature and the arts in the main Italian cities was an established fact since the nineteenth century. By welcoming eminent scientists from all disciplines, the academies created an élite within the élite of scholars and, in the case of Italy, they represented an instrument to strengthen the professional identity of the economists. Fascism intervened in this reality along two parallel lines: on the one hand, it tried to overcome the particularism typical of Italian culture, creating in 1929 a national cultural institute, the Reale Accademia d’Italia, and, on the other hand, it worked to mobilise the most eminent intellectuals in support of the new regime’s aims by somehow prising them from their relatively sheltered sanctums—“ivory towers” detached from the construction of a new national culture. Decisive steps were taken in 1934 when members of academies were required to swear an oath of allegiance, and in 1938, when the purge following the racial laws struck many Jew academy members, among whom 27 affiliates of the prestigious Academy of Lincei.
Rosario Patalano, Marco E. L. Guidi

The Italian Economists as Legislators and Policymakers During the Fascist Regime

This chapter examines the role played by Italian economists in Parliament and as members of the government during fascism, a period in which the relationship between the legislative and the executive changed substantially. On the one hand, the regime acted to shift the balance of power from the legislative to the executive, led by a charismatic duce. On the other hand, the elections were transformed into a plebiscite in which voters were called upon to approve a single list drawn up by the regime until, in 1939, the lower Chamber itself was transformed into a “Chamber of Fasces and Corporations”. Also, the Senate, which traditionally included members of the political, judiciary and academic élite appointed by royal decree, was increasingly “fascistised”. In this framework, a limited group of economists performed a significant and, until recently, largely neglected activity as builders of the “new” fascist state but also, in a few cases, as bearers of insightful and “dialectical” views, to the extent that these could be expressed. Anti-fascist economists in the Lower House (Antonio Graziadei; Arturo Labriola; Angelo Mauri) were stripped of office already in 1926, while Agostino Lanzillo, Gaetano Zingali, Gino Arias, Luigi Lojacono, Vincenzo Ricchioni, Attilio da Empoli and Zeno Vignati were to various degrees supporters of the regime. Some fascist economists became members of the cabinet during the “Ventennio”, among whom Alberto De’ Stefani, Giacomo Acerbo, Arrigo Serpieri and Giuseppe Tassinari are the leading figures. The majority of the legislators and policymakers selected by the regime were applied economists and acted primarily as field experts, providing a relevant contribution to the building of the fascist state. The presence of “pure” ideologists and/or theorists of corporatism is also significant but, nevertheless, circumscribed and of less practical impact. This does not mean that the economists analysed in this chapter limited themselves to provide “technical” advice. Most of them were strongly committed to fascist ideology, albeit often advocating different policies. Mussolini, in any case, did not hesitate to put them aside whenever his strategic priorities changed.
Giovanni Pavanelli, Giulia Bianchi

Banks, Firms and Economic Culture: Economists and Research Centres in Interwar Italy

This chapter offers a historical reconstruction of the most important research institutes established in Italy by banks and firms during the interwar years. The Italian experience can be read and placed in a much wider international trend that emerged during the Great War. Though initially confined within the banking sector, research departments gradually spread out to the major industrial corporations, especially those included in the new public conglomerates. After exploring the extensive web of relationships between the academia and the productive world, the chapter focuses on a set of relevant case studies: four selected within the banking sector (Banca Commerciale Italiana, Banca d’Italia, Associazione Bancaria Italiana and Banco di Sicilia); and six within the industrial sector (IRI, Finsider, Ansaldo, Edison, Montecatini and Fiat). The intent of this study is to understand what role economists played in the establishment and growth of these research institutes, what functions they performed and what impact they had, especially concerning economic culture, technical innovations and institutional reforms.
Pier Francesco Asso, Fabio Lavista, Sebastiano Nerozzi

The Diaspora of Italian Economists: Intellectual Migration Between Politics and Racial Laws

Based on a definition of diaspora as “dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland” (OED), this chapter aims to examine the main phenomena of the intellectual migration of Italian economists during the twenty years of fascism. The study aims to present a first overview of the times, modes and places of this diaspora, examining its different typologies: expulsion from teaching for political reasons (Attilio Cabiati, Francesco Saverio Nitti, Antonio Graziadei and Umberto Ricci), withdrawal to private life in order not to take the oath of loyalty to the Fascist Party (Antonio De Viti de Marco), the search for solid and secure academic positions abroad (Piero Sraffa), the obstacles to the entry of young professors in the university staff (Dino Jarach and Franco Modigliani), the economists imprisoned (Arturo Labriola and Antonio Pesenti) or confined (Ernesto Rossi). Also for a question of numbers, the work identifies the racial laws of 1938 as the fulcrum of the narrative. For each of the ten professors discriminated against by this legislation (Gino Arias, Riccardo Bachi, Roberto Bachi, Gustavo Del Vecchio, Marco Fanno, Bruno Foà, Renzo Fubini, Gino Luzzatto, Giorgio Mortara, Angelo Segré), essential indications are given on the dynamics of dismission from academic ranks, the places of destination and, when this happened, the time of their reintegration and the reasons for eventual refusals. Added to this are the personal stories of the three economists affected by racial laws when they were already retired as university professors (Riccardo Dalla Volta, Augusto Graziani and Achille Loria) and the tragic death in Auschwitz Birkenau concentration camp of two professors (Riccardo Dalla Volta and Renzo Fubini).
Daniela Giaconi

The Purging of Fascist Economists in Post-war Italy

This chapter analyses the purge processes of thirty-nine economists who were opened after the fall of the fascist regime by the provisional government of liberated Italy. The study is based on personal trial files kept at the Archivio Centrale dello Stato in Rome, in the funds of the National Commission for the Purge of University Personnel. While documenting each personal case in the main details, the analysis focuses on the invariant elements of defensive strategies, considering the trial memory as a language of convention. In this way, it can be demonstrated that economists, in this complex cross-section of recent Italian history, experienced situations similar to those of all the disciplinary classes that were subject to trial, repeating defence strategies that ignored their specialist knowledge. What emerges is a conceptual framework that outlines the purge as a sort of rite of passage towards the new Republic, which in fact ended in a general acquittal or amnesty, which did not hinder the progress of the careers of even the economists most aligned with fascism. There were many economists who also adopted the rhetoric of fascism as a parenthesis, under the illusion that history could proceed without touching them. The paralysis of the purge highlight the fact that a democratic state can condemn acts of violence and discrimination, but not ideas professed with coherence and intellectual conviction. If acts of injustice were not committed, if indeed the accused helped or protected persecuted students and colleagues, membership of the National Fascist Party or the oath of allegiance could not in themselves be taken as reasons to condemn an academic.
Daniela Giaconi

Italian Economists of the Interwar Period: Academic, Political and Professional Biographies

This chapter analyses primary sources such as the yearbooks of the Ministry of Education and those of single Italian universities, as well as various biographical repertoires in order to provide a synthetic overview of the profiles of the protagonists of our narration: the economists. Its core is represented by a synoptic table which provides data about the personal identity of the main economists mentioned in the book, with their fields of study, academic affiliation and teaching periods, main affiliations to academies and scientific associations, and political and public offices, both at national and international level. An interesting feature of the table consists of an attempt to classify the relationships between the economists and the fascist regime, whether they implied some type of official collaboration or on the contrary political opposition, which systematically led to expulsion from academia and to exile. It also records the cases of those who were marginalised after 1938 as a consequence of the racial laws. Finally, for each economist it provides essential references for further inquiry.
Massimo M. Augello


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