The most recent Annal of the Feltrinelli Foundation describes an approach to the global market missing in Italy and attempts to explain the reasons for it

Understanding context is everything. It may have been said many times before, but it always bears repeating. It is essential for any entrepreneurs and managers conscious of their roles.

The latest annal from the Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation serves this purpose well.  Edited by Franco Amatori (Professor of Economic History at the Bocconi University in Milan), “L’approdo mancato” (The missed landing point), is an important collection of essays and research, with the sub-heading explaining its content: “Economia, politica e società in Italia dopo il miracolo economico” (Economics, politics and society in Italy after the economic miracle).­Everything starts with the title though. The “missed landing point” is a concept which was first put forward by Mario Pirani in 1991 in a piece published in the magazine “Il Mulino”. Pirani invited us to reflect on three missed opportunities – electronics, nuclear and oil distribution – arguing that if we had taken these opportunities we would have ended up taking off in the same way as the Japanese.

Amatori takes up this idea and uses the phrase to intend the landing point at the frontiers of the global economy. The editor’s thesis is essentially very simple. Amatori takes it for granted that Italy, which at the end of the 20th century was in fifth place in the world in terms of gross domestic product, would come back down to Earth, as it was also inevitable that it would suffer from the hardships which began in the United States in September of 2008. In other words, the advent of globalisation and the rise of the BRICS, particularly China, meant that it was always impossible for Italy to maintain its position. And it was also inevitable that the enormous mass of toxic bonds would have an effect on an economy already burdened with one of the highest public debts in the world. Nevertheless, these genuine storms could have been dealt with in a very different way if the economic apparatus, and especially Italian industry, had been made of sterner stuff; if the country had been able to take advantage of a large chemical, electronic or auto industry; if it had had much more widespread new IT and communication technologies; if it had been more autonomous in terms of energy.

To demonstrate this, Amatori has collected a series of discussion which, amongst other things, cover topics such as the historical and political evolution of the Italy of the economic ‘miracle’ and onwards, the failure of frontier technology projects, the evolution of the so-called ‘entrepreneurial state’, acts of nationalisation, the struggles of manual workers in the 1970s, changes in the consumption patterns of Italians, the road to ‘decline’, the emergence of resilience and the transformation of industrial zones, the situation in the 1970s and 1980s, the lack of regulation and the introduction of the Euro. The collection concludes with three more essays (“opinion pieces”) on the Italian case.

Though diverse, each of the discussions attempts to respond to one question only: what would have happened if at the crossroads of the post-miracle period (end of the 1960s, start of the 1970s), the outcome had been different?The essays edited by Amatori are all worth reading and can be used as a kind of guide to the present, even if they discuss the past. Particularly striking is the final idea given to the readers by the editor: “What can we learn from the past in relation to the future? Considering the history of Italy, I would say a great deal of caution.(…) The human story is the combination of many different variables which combine to make it completely unpredictable.”

 

L’approdo mancato. Economia, politica e società in Italia dopo il miracolo economico (The missed landing point. Economics, politics and society in Italy after the economic miracle

Franco Amatori

(edited by)

21/12/2017