In This Review

Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe
Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe
By
Routledge, 2010, 280 pp

The scandals, speeches, sex, and partisan scheming of Italian political life have always grabbed media attention. Yet the central question of Italian politics often goes unasked: How did the most successful country in postwar Europe become a basket case? In 1987, with much fanfare, Italy's per capita income overtook that of the United Kingdom; in 20 years, if current trends continue, it will be overtaken by Romania's. The interdisciplinary group of authors in this collection sets aside short-term factors and explores long-term structural reasons for Italia malata (ailing Italy). They offer new insights into well-known problems: the poor productivity of small firms, a lethargic legal system, weak universities, rampant corruption, the absence of meritocratic advancement, and the continued underdevelopment of the south. They also highlight problems known only to experts: little government support for families, the spread of organized crime outside of Naples and Sicily, low levels of social trust, and anti-immigrant sentiment.