In 1962 Giorgio Bocca, a social commentator and essayist, fatalistically predicted the submergence of Italy’s rich diversity of regional and local identities under a tide of modern materialism. He wrote: “What the Medici’s pope-king, Dante’s emperor-messiah, Machiavelli’s prince, Cavour’s Piedmontese bureaucracy and Mussolini’s fascists all failed to accomplish is coming together under the auspices of the consumer civilisation and its television oracle. Before long the Italians will be a compact people with identical customs, habits and ideals, from Sicily to the Alps. They will dress, think, eat and enjoy themselves all in the same way, as the small screen dictates and imposes.” At the time it might have seemed a plausible forecast. During Italy’s “golden age of capitalism”, stretching from roughly 1950 to 1973, rapid economic growth and social modernisation produced a mass national market in which increasing numbers of Italians drove the same cars (Fiats), rode the same scooters (Vespas), watched the same television programmes (Carosello – a show that popularised TV commercial messages), drank the same coffee (Paulista) and ate the same pasta (Barilla). It was as if centuries of difference were disappearing in the solvent of a standardised prosperity. Today, as Italy marks its 150th anniversary as a nation-state, Bocca’s fears appear much exaggerated.
more from Tony Barber at the FT here.