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Individual well-being, collective well-being

The history of the welfare state in Italy, between the public and private sectors and between individuals and businesses

The Welfare State. The complex and delicate system that a government creates to guarantee a “combination of social rights, individual freedoms and principles of basic equality”, as Chiara Giorgi and Ilaria Pavan outline in their interesting book “Storia dello Stato sociale in Italia” (The History of the Welfare State in Italy). It has just been published and is a good read for anyone wanting to get a clear picture of the key aspects of the subject, both in its historical context and its current relevance. In some ways, the welfare state goes hand in hand with the construction and growth of corporate welfare, which might appear to be a novelty today but which has been part of Italy’s history for many decades, in various forms and terms.

Giorgi and Pavan have written a book that is a real source of knowledge and that begins with an observation, as the main tool for protecting citizens’ rights in response to individual and collective risks and needs, for years, the welfare state has been at the centre of a debate that tends to ignore its history. As is always the case, however, we must start from history to understand the present, even when it comes to the welfare state and welfare in general.

In the book, the authors recount the history of the welfare state through the 20th century up to the present day. This is no mean feat, as it tells the story of the welfare state in terms of its three pillars, welfare, health and care. This is done using an approach that combines political and institutional processes as well as social, economic and cultural ones. It starts with Italy’s liberal age and moves on to the Fascist period, the Republican era and finally, the present day.

Giorgi and Pavan’s book does not offer any definitive conclusions or suggestions for improving the Italian welfare state to fit with the modern world or in its relations with private and corporate welfare, but it is a book with great value. It manages to summarise a complex topic, providing an invaluable information resource for all public and private welfare stakeholders in Italy.

Storia dello Stato sociale in Italia (The History of the Welfare State in Italy)

Chiara Giorgi, Ilaria Pavan

Il Mulino, 2021