The Italian republic, at forty, is alive and well. Some consider this fact a miracle; many more judge it a paradox. Italy is the country of permanent crisis, where there have been forty-five national governments in forty years. Tax evasion is a way of life, one adult in three votes “communist,” the citizens have no kind word to spare for their political leaders and instructions, and the state itself is simultaneously in conflict with the Vatican and at war with the Mafia and political terrorists. How could a democracy take root, to say nothing of grow robust, in such an improbable setting?
In Democracy, Italian Style, the foremost expert on the Italian political system unravels this puzzle and, in the process, suggests that the only real paradox is the failure of so many observers, including Italians themselves, to recognize that what may be pathological for democracy in one climate may actually work in democracy’s favor in Italy.
Challenging the still-dominant picture of Italy, LaPalombara asserts that in a relatively short span, the Italians have managed to forge a remarkable democracy, one that reveals degrees of toleration, freedom, and sheer political inventiveness others should find enviable.
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