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142 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 very good at recognizing where important transformations are and are not occurring. The Cult of Efficiency is an excellent exploration of the evolving economic roles of the state and their intellectual, economic, and social roots. (MARK W. ZACHER) Enrico Dal Lago and Rick Halpern, editors. The American South and the Italian Mezzogiorno: Essays in Comparative History Palgrave. ix, 256. US $29.95 The South, as the backward and conservative counterpart of a modern and progressive North, has been a conventional trope in the political imaginary of the Atlantic world for more than a century. At its most encompassing, the dyad defines the entire planet, as when it is used as a synonym of, or euphemism for, the explicitly hierarchical >First= and >Third= world. At the national level, this dual image can be found within countries as diverse as Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, and even tiny Puerto Rico. Few cases, however, are as putatively prototypical as the two this book deals with. In the first part of the volume, the editors and Piero Bevilacqua frame their discussion around three comparative approaches sketched by Peter Kolchin in a historiographic chapter on the American South. The first approach compares the South to the North or >un-South,= as Kolchin phrases it. I would argue, however, that in these dichotomies, which have functioned as Derridean binary oppositions, the North has represented the standard and thus has been defined in its own terms, and it is the South that has represented the >other,= the >un-North.= This is not a mere semantic paradox. It has shaped the historiography of >Souths= everywhere. The authors acknowledge so when they state that these South/North comparisons have normally focused on what the South is not (which usually comes down to what it has failed at). The second approach compares different regions within the South and tends to break down the monolithic concept by highlighting the differences between, say, tidewater Virginia and the upcountry, or Naples and Sicily. The third approach, comparisons between >Souths,= has a long tradition in comparative studies of slavery but few antecedents in the type of cross-Atlantic comparisons this book presents. The second part of the book deals with rural elites and workers. The chapters by Richard Follett on Louisiana sugar planters and by Marta Petrusewicz on the Neapolitan >landed intelligentsia= reach a conclusion similar to that of many studies of nineteenth-century landed elites in other Souths (south of the Rio Grande, for instance). Rather than feudal or reactionary , these groups were capitalist and obsessed with material progress but also politically and socially conservative. Significantly, the label used by Petrusewicz, >liberal conservative,= has also been applied to Brazilian and humanities 143 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Argentine rural oligarchies. The chapters by Steven Hahn and Lucy Riall form a less comparable pair because the first focuses on Black labourers after emancipation and the second on the Sicilian landed estate rather than on the peasants themselves. But both describe a process similar to what the Dependency theorists of the 1970s labelled >uneven development=: the coexistence of liberal legal reforms with de facto social continuities, and of capitalist modes of exchange with semi-coercive labour systems. In the third part of the book, J. William Harris and Giovanna Fiume sketch the historiography on gender in the United States and Italian South respectively. The dominant topics in these two literatures seem quite different: the southern >belle= (or rather, its deconstruction), slavery, and race in the former; and problematizing the presumed traditionalism of peasant women and families in the latter. Nonetheless, William Harris offers a suggestive list of questions for comparison. The last three chapters of the book are explicitly comparative. Enrico del Lago draws parallels between the nation-building projects of antebellum and pre-unification northern liberals and their self-vision as liberators of the oppressed southern masses. Donna Gabaccia explores the interplay of regional and racial/ethnic identities among Black migrants from the American South and Italian immigrants from the mezzogiorno. Bruce Levine compares the debates about how capitalist southern plantations and...


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