Italy is in the throes of that most difficult of predicaments, a state of transition. Transition to a more open and egalitarian society; transition to new economic and financial arrangements; transition to a more efficient administrative machinery; transition to greater participation in decisions concerning the place of work; transition to a more important role for women; transition to an expanded influence for parties of the Left. The transition is made all the more difficult by the fact that the hectic, unbalanced economic growth of the sixties, which made tolerable the (lower) pace of social change, has given way to the twin evils of stagnation and inflation. Attention abroad has been largely focused on the drift toward impotence of the government, the crumbling of established authority, the current economic and financial crisis, the turbulent division of society and the growing ungovernability of the country, and above all on the advance of a party calling itself communist, apparently the only one capable of filling the void, since the balance between the parties of the Left in Italy is different from that in other Western European countries as a strong Socialist party does not exist. But the wheels of history are turning fast not only in the political sphere but also in the economic field, and transformations in the latter are both cause and effect of the socio-political changes of the past decade.
In the seventies the structural weaknesses of the economy have been accentuated and the risk of social and political regression has increased. Just as the democratic surge, the assertion of egalitarianism and the onslaught of demands on the government are not idiosyncrasies of Italy but are a familiar phenomenon throughout Western democracies, similarly the dysfunctions of its economy have many parallels in other industrialized nations. The postwar period has witnessed everywhere