Franco Modigliani and the history of Italian fascism

by on February 11, 2017 at 12:50 am in Economics, History, Political Science | Permalink

What is often missed—and, frankly, it would seem deliberately misrepresented in his own autobiographical works—is that in Italy, Modigliani, by age 20, was a well published fascist wunderkind, having received in 1936 an award for economics writing from the hand of Benito Mussolini himself. Further, in 1947, at age 29, Modigliani published a 75-page article whose title in English translation would be “The Organization and Direction of Production in a Socialist Economy” (Modigliani 1947), an article that affirms socialist economics. In 2004 and 2005 there appeared English translations of five fascist works by Modigliani originally published during 1937 and 1938 (all five translations are collected by Daniela Parisi in Modigliani 2007b). The socialist paper of 1947 has never been translated in its entirety, though the  Appendix to this profile contains excerpts selected and newly translated by Viviana Di Giovinazzo, to whom we are very grateful.

That is from Econ Journal Watch, by Daniel B. Klein and Ryan Daza, with Viviana Di Giovinazzo, and here is the broader page on the ideological histories of the Nobel Laureates (interesting throughout).  The point here is not to trash Modigliani, but rather to point out how thoroughly fascist ways of thinking can seep into a society.  Furthermore, fascism and other forms of authoritarianism rule are a massive tax on human creativity, as it is unlikely Modigliani could have turned his career around had his life under Mussolini’s regime persisted.

1 So Much For Subtlety February 11, 2017 at 1:08 am

The point here is not to trash Modigliani, but rather to point out how thoroughly fascist ways of thinking can seep into a society. Furthermore, fascism and other forms of authoritarianism rule are a massive tax on human creativity, as it is unlikely Modigliani could have turned his career around had his life under Mussolini’s regime persisted.

You don’t think that the point is that Modigliani really was a Fascist? Fascism seems to vary according to profession – for some reason a lot of German mathematicians seem to have been Nazis – but on the whole they look a very talented, diverse and interesting field to me. More so than Communism that seems to appeal to middle school teachers. Fascist architects were actually very good. Fascist sculpture may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is not bad. Painting? Not so much. Italian economists don’t seem to have had a big problem with Mussolini. Corado Gini was close to the Fascists until they meddled in his work. Pareto was not exactly alienated by their ideas.

I don’t see that Fascism was a tax on much until they got around to gassing Jews. Before that culture seems to have done well under them.

2 whatever February 11, 2017 at 1:30 am

The Nazis gassed Jews, not the fascists. In fact the Italians fascists resisted cooperating with the Nazis on rounding up Jews (see Arendt, or the recent post on SSC).

Franco and Salazar didn’t participate in that atrocity either.

3 So Much For Subtlety February 11, 2017 at 3:59 am

I have no interest in debating how narrowly one should define “Fascist” but I will note that Primo Levi was arrested and sent to a concentration camp by Italian militia men – after he told them he was a Jew. He was then handed over to the Nazis.

By the Salo Republic, the Italian Fascists were not protecting their Jews. Oddly enough it is this phase of Fascism that seems to have survived. Italian Fascist football fans, for instance, seem almost proud to be anti-semitic.

4 whatever February 11, 2017 at 11:43 am

My point is that it was the Nazis that “[went] around to gassing Jews”. The Nazis were different enough from other instances of Fascism that it should be acknowledged. The Fascist government in Italy did not want to gas Jews. The Nazis did.

5 prior_test2 February 11, 2017 at 5:07 am

‘I have no interest in debating how narrowly one should define “Fascist”’

Starting with the difference between the proper noun referring to a political party founded by Mussolini, and ‘fascist’ used as a broader term to define believers/followers of a certain sort of authoritarian corporatist form of government, marked by extreme nationalism and no concern for following the rule of law, or as an adjective.

And really, whether the Fascists created some interesting work probably rests on Italian artistic abilities, as the Nazis are noted for stultifyingly bombastic works lacking even the shimmer of artistic originality.

6 The Anti-Gnostic February 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

OK, but authoritarian as in, you better bake that gay couple’s cake, or authoritarian as in, stop-and-frisk? “Fascism” as “authoritarianism” is entirely dependent upon whose ox is being gored. Same with “nationalism” as there are apparently lots of acceptable kinds (see “Jewish” and “Tibetan”).

What this is really about is wielding the term like a witch doctor shaking a totem, in order to end all debate.

7 Bob February 11, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Franco and Salazar weren’t fascists. They were pro-clerical, pro-landlord conservatives who cracked down on fascists.

8 Demosthenes February 11, 2017 at 1:26 am

Gary Mongiovi has worked on this. He presented this at the last (and final?) Richmond Summer Institute for the History of Economic Thought:

http://jepson.richmond.edu/conferences/summer-institute/papers2015/GMongioviSI.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCdhg4t_7O0

9 Charlie February 11, 2017 at 1:57 am

I wonder which of my college writings Dan Klein would smear me with.

10 Jim Rose February 11, 2017 at 3:50 am

It should be remembered that the fascists in Italy were tinpot dictators while the Nazis in Germany was a totalitarian dictatorship.

11 Bapak Suharto February 11, 2017 at 3:54 am

Oh no, not another post about fascism! How many can we take in one week? Haw, haw. Mr Cowen, I realise you must be under pressure from all your libertarian high school buddies to make a big impact in the furiously impostent insurgency against Trump. But if you believe Mr Trump is a fascist why not simply say so and give a reason why? At least one reason please. Feel free to use all traditional political science and sociological definitions. Authoritarian? Provide evidence. Undemocratic? Provide evidence. Similar pattern of behaviour to Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, or one of inumerable Latin American dictators? Give the professorial reasons for your view in one sentence. Certifiably insane? Provide examples.

12 Donald Pretari February 11, 2017 at 4:08 am

“It can be said without hesitation that after the unification of Italy, there was no other country either in Europe or in the whole world where Jews felt so well integrated into the general population. If anti-Semitism existed, it was minimal and confined to certain small circles. In this climate, needless to say, Italian Jews prospered. Many of them belonged to the upper bourgeoisie or to the intelligentsia. Although they never numbered more than 80,000, their impact on Italian life was considerable, especially in the cities of Ferrara, Milan, Turin, Venice, Rome, and Trieste. They especially excelled in the field of mathematics. Every student of higher mathematics knows the names of such innovators as Tullio Levi Civita, Giuseppe Peano, and Vito Volterra. Italy was the first Christian country to have a Jew as premier, Luigi “Luzzatti, who held that office in 1910 and 1911. In fact, until Mussolini began to yield to Hitler’s wishes, all had gone well between the Italian Jews and the rest of the Italians. But the man who on August 28, 1934 had rejected German racism with a grandiloquent sentence—“Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with sovereign disdain and piety on certain theories followed north of the Alps”—four years later began to imitate the Nazi leader with an anti-Semitism that, while not as fanatic as the German’s, was nevertheless unequivocal.”
― from “The Parnas: A Scene from the Holocaust” by Silvano Arieti

Italy is a difficult case to understand. On the one hand, Italy had a much better record concerning Jews than most other countries, even helping to save Jews outside of Italy. On the other hand, such a policy had seemed unthinkable to many Italian Jews until it actually occurred. Where nationalism is concerned, there is always the chance a country will decide minorities are not desired, certainly not as equal citizens. In that sense, it seems to me such a possibility is inherent in fascism, and so it is not a system to be encouraged or romanticized. The fear of a corporate/ nationalist government anywhere is worthwhile.

13 So Much For Subtlety February 11, 2017 at 4:21 am

Where nationalism is concerned, there is always the chance a country will decide minorities are not desired, certainly not as equal citizens.

As it is where socialism is concerned. They have often decided entire classes are not desired. Certainly not as equal citizens. Some times they have decided that entire minorities are not desired either. France refuses to sign the convention on the rights of minorities because it would have to respect languages like Occitan and so on. I think Bloodlands pointed out that the most persecuted minority up to 1941 or so was the Poles because Stalin was determined to kill them all – as he was doing with Koreans and Chinese and would go on to do with Chechens, Crimean Tartars and others.

Sometimes of course both come together. Like when the nationalist and yet socialist government of Algeria decided it wanted to be Jew-free. And so the progressive Left endorsed ethnic cleansing of Jews less than two decades after the Holocaust.

Modern governments kill a lot of people.

14 msgkings February 11, 2017 at 4:26 am

+1, credit where it’s due

15 ladderff February 11, 2017 at 8:43 am

A break from the usual shameless slander? I smell an imposter.

16 msgkings February 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

F*ck off. See it’s me. And you are projecting, all you post is slander.

17 Donald Pretari February 11, 2017 at 11:11 am

People kill people.

18 Donald Pretari February 11, 2017 at 11:22 am

My view of Communism was summed up by Richard Pipes…Stephane Courtois, the editor of ‘The Black Book of Communism,’ estimates the global number of Communism’s victims at between 85 and 100 million, which is 50 percent greater than the deaths caused by the two world wars. Various justifications have been offered for these losses, such as that one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs. Apart from the fact that human beings are not eggs, the trouble is that no omelette has emerged from the slaughter.”

But we weren’t talking about communism.

19 Thiago Ribeiro February 11, 2017 at 6:48 am

The same way the Socpviet regime had to forget the Trotskyte-Leninist creed of worldwide revolution and embrace the Stalinist Socialism in One Country deviation when the so hoped-for Western European revolutions failed to actjally happen (and, as able as Trotsky was in pointing the Stalinist falsifications, he never presented a solution for the problem of what the Bolsheviks should have done after the German revolution, the one Lenin said they could not make do without, failed), the American regime, faxcing the loss of faith of a desperate populace, falling living standards and dangerous foreign rivals that threaten Amwrica’s economic and military position among the narions, have no alternative left but go down the fascist path and gamble its survival on the success of an increasingly jingoist and authoritarian ethos. There is no turning back for Trump and his followes now. Aut Caesar, aut nihil. We are seeing the collapse of the American system as we have come to know it. As a Brazilian anthem says, a people with no virtue will end up enslaved. Fascism is, first and foremost, the punishment people that lacks civic virtue imposes on itself.

20 JWatts February 11, 2017 at 7:24 pm

“We are seeing the collapse of the American system as we have come to know it. ”

It looks far more likely that we are seeing the collapse of Brazil.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/brazil-on-the-verge-of-chaos

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/11/brazils-corruption-scandal-spreads-across-south-america

https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/feb/10/brazil-police-strike-rioting-espirito-santo-picture-gallery

That’s far worse than anything happening in America.

21 Some Guy February 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

I continue to be amused by the liberal attempt to warn everyone about the past, as if history is a bogeyman chasing them through the woods. For the self-styled intellectuals, I suppose it is. Fascism is, after all, a child of the intellectual class. Regardless, fascism is not coming back from the grave. National Populism is what promises to sweep away the wreckage of the present. That’s what people need to read up on.

22 Thiago Ribeiro February 11, 2017 at 9:55 am

“Fascism is, after all, a child of the intellectual class.”

As is virtually every ideology in the forms we know them, now from Doctors of Church-influenced Christianity (and of course, if Saint Paul was not an intelellectual, no Jew ever was) to Marxism to Neoconservatism to Reactionarism. Otherwise you may have grunts, but not an ideology.

“I continue to be amused by the liberal attempt to warn everyone about the past,”
Were you as amused by Bushists who kept warning that Saddam was Hitler and not murdering Iraqis was appeasement?

23 Some Guy February 11, 2017 at 10:43 am

Neocon warmongering is just another facet of Progressivism.

24 Thiago Ribeiro February 11, 2017 at 11:13 am

Maybe, but there are Progressives who oppose wars and have been non-progressives who fight them, I doubt the label, if stretched this way, is useful.

25 The Anti-Gnostic February 11, 2017 at 10:04 am

Fascism was a creature of a specific time and place, a competitor with bolshevism for nation-state power in the vacuum left by the failed monarchies. Americans, and probably a lot of other Westerners, just don’t have the same sincere belief in the State as ultimate human institution.

Who’s a member in good standing of the polity is a perennial issue. In the US the test has always been, do you believe in the ideology of the Republic? After all, the existential and ontological issues were presumably settled at the State’s founding: Catholic, Protestant, monarchy, tribe, socialist, capitalist, etc. So the capitalists who believe in Lockean principles establish the Republic and argue over things like building roads and tax rates. But if you didn’t hold the reigning ideology, we didn’t kick you out or bar your entry, and now there is zero consensus on what the reigning ideology should be. So how do we determine who’s in and who’s out? As Some Guy noted, we had better read up on National Populism, not fascism which is in the rearview mirror along with the Whigs.

That’s the point I think Tyler is overlooking in his desire to see fascism! in Donald Trump so he can tell everybody he told them so. The forces that have been unleashed in the US are centrifugal, not centripetal.

26 Some Guy February 11, 2017 at 10:39 am

The reason fascism haunts the dreams of the managerial class is, at some level, they sense it is the only logical outcome of their ideological framework. The blank slate always leads to the death camp.

27 Barkley Rosser February 11, 2017 at 10:04 am

Gosh, Some Guy, how right you are. As that late great anti-Semite Henry Ford used to say, “History is bunk.” Nothing to see here, move right along to think about this completely new and totally different thing without any reference to any history, “National Populism.” Wow.

28 GoneWithTheWind February 11, 2017 at 11:00 am

Fascism was just another branch of the Socialism/communism tree.

29 Millian February 11, 2017 at 4:30 pm

If true, then so’s your red-hatted loon.

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