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Reviewed by:
  • Speaking Out and Silencing: Culture, Society and Politics in Italy in the 1970s
  • Carol Lazzaro-Weis
Anna Cento Bull and Adalgisa Giorgio, eds. Speaking Out and Silencing: Culture, Society and Politics in Italy in the 1970s. Leeds: Legenda/Italian Perspectives, 2006. Pp. xii + 244.

As the editors of this impressive volume of 16 interdisciplinary essays state in their introduction, interpretations of the 1970s in Italy as a period of political and ideological conflict tout court, have "cast a long shadow which led to a collective repression of the memory of that period, as well as to a suppression of debate and conscious manipulation of facts and events" (1). These essays shift the focus of the debate from "the phenomenon of organized terrorism and political violence which has until now dominated analyses of the period" (1) to the role of generational and gender conflicts. Both the Communist and the Christian Democratic parties were in trouble as younger generations rejected them and proposed alternative political systems, genealogies, and cultural changes with varying, often extreme results; these changes allowed certain groups to express themselves while silencing others or eventually silenced the same groups originally enabled to speak. The generational framework leads the contributors to this volume to offer synchronic readings of the conflict during the 1970s or diachronic readings where they compare and contrast the 1970s with the 1990s to find connections and heretofore ignored transmitted legacies. The framework of generational conflict or transmission is also used to refute or refine previous connections made between different groups and the violence of the 1970s so that their existence and legacy can be better understood in relationship to Italy's rich and controversial past. [End Page 183]

The volume is divided into two parts: the essays in part 1, "Issues and Overviews," offer broad theoretical frameworks for the major developments in the social, literary, political and cultural spheres. In part 2, entitled "Case studies," these theories are applied to more circumscribed places or events such as the Aldo Moro affair in Roberto Bartali's Oliver Stone-like, but still fascinating, "The Red Brigade and the Moro Kidnapping: Secrets and Lies," or Anna Cento Bull's perceptive analysis of the Communist Party's theoretical tenet of the centrality of the working class as played out in the story of the now defunct steel plant outside of Naples, "From the Centrality of the Working Class to Its Demise: The Case of Bagnoli, Naples." The first essay of part 1, by political scientist Piero Ignazi, sets the stage for the rest of the contributions. Ignazi argues that "Italian politics in the 1970s revolved around two opposing world views of political conflict. The liberal-libertarian view saw political conflict as a physiological and perhaps necessary part of the functioning of democracy. The organicist-consociational view held by both the DC and the PC perceived conflict as trauma, a wound that needed to be overcome"( 10). This conflict, which produced a plethora of strange bedfellows, changed Italian society permanently but not without extreme consequences. The "Historical Compromise" launched by Berlinguer in 1973 showed that the PCI's Marxist base and the Christian Democrats shared the same salvational and providential view of an organic society able to overcome all differences and mold them into a harmonious whole, a view that paradoxically delegitimized dissent and provoked it by strengthening the libertarian reaction. Ignazi inserts the main political changes and incessant scandals of the 1970s into this theoretical base; he covers the rise of the PSI and Bettino Craxi, terrorism of the right and the left, feminist and student movements, and the Moro affair. The next two essays by Paola Di Cori and Amalia Signorelli deal more specifically with the feminist movement(s). Both authors provide informative synopses of the different feminist groups, the particular circumstances of each group and how these circumstances formed and informed their theories and actions. Both Signorelli and Di Cori remind us that many of the demands labeled radical in the 1970s are widely accepted now as givens and both authors challenge any causational links between feminism and terrorism. The conflict between group cohesion and individual expression addressed by Ignazi parallels for Paolo Di Cori the...


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pp. 183-187
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2009
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