In This Review

The Search for Good Government: Understanding the Paradox of Italian Democracy
The Search for Good Government: Understanding the Paradox of Italian Democracy
By Filippo Sabetti
McGill-Queens University Press, 2000, 313 pp
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An ambitious and spirited book that asks what type of constitutional system works best for Italy. Sabetti juxtaposes his analysis of earlier political thinkers with an account of more recent Italian politics and a critique of several influential political studies. One intriguing intellectual examined is Carlo Cattaneo, who during unification advocated a mix of communal autonomy (which he believed would encourage civic consciousness) and federalism (which Italy's leaders ultimately rejected). Sabetti continues with a discussion of how national parties limited regional autonomy after World War II so they could dominate local politics, then moves on abruptly to analyze the war against the Mafia. He concludes that this fight for good government has been hampered by a "perverse emphasis on legality," yet he fails to consider that legality is required for good government. His critique of cultural explanations for Italy's political flaws-including Robert Putnam's distinction between the civic-minded North and the authoritarian, corrupt South-leads to his general condemnation of foreign misconceptions of Italy. As for the Italians, he writes, their adoption of such foreign views amounts to "self-colonization." At the end, the reader is still left in the dark about how Italian democracy will succeed.