The Dead End of Italian Life Part 3

The Dead End of Italian Life Part 3

There is still a feudal nobility, partly of ancient origin, especially in the south, even more of recent origin, for the purchase of fiefdoms, for princely diplomas, especially in northern and central Italy. It is a Spanish nobility, sumptuous, all taken by the desire to excel in public even if in private it feels the pang of misery, far from offices or from the care of heritage and from any interest, “asleep in the pleasures of a happy life”, as the Vico. By now it also withdraws from the militia and loses what had been its main function. All in all, a class that is running out and crumbling: debts, partial alienation of the fiefdoms and therefore splitting of the fiefdoms themselves, ruinous judicial disputes between the feudatories with the communities or with the royal or ducal or grand-ducal chamber, confiscation of fiefdoms, etc. Always continued to manufacture some of this feudal nobility; but the more it grows in number, the more it is devalued in terms of quality. Next to, or further down, there is an urban patriciate, born from the mercantile activities, professions, legates, etc., of free or more recently formed cities. Although there were patricians invested with fiefdoms and feudatories admitted to the patriciate and ambitious to enter it by virtue of the authority it procured in city affairs, both classes also kept themselves distinct and in a position of antagonism. The aristocracy, large and small, prevailed in court offices and in the administration of communities: indeed it almost monopolized the administrations, and constituted a closed circle, with a tendency to die out like all closed circles. The bourgeoisie of business, commerce, of the bank, of the textile or metallurgical industries. Elsewhere it is argued, albeit with a more restricted Italian or regional market.

According to Thefreegeography, urban life has lost its old fervor everywhere. There are no more wars between city and city: but everywhere, the bell tower is standing more than ever: rivalry, pride of precedence, the effort of the minor ones to adapt to the major ones in terms of titles, quarrels for the distribution of the tax globally assigned to the province or to the kingdom, for military quarters, etc. And sometimes it seems that the ambition of cities is exhausted in obtaining a distinction, which is as a title of nobility for private families. And like the cities, so the minor constituted bodies, the merchant and artisan guilds, the brotherhoods, etc. The tendency of all organisms and groups to close in on themselves is always alive: indeed, in the stagnation of so many activities, of the vital lymphs, it manifests itself more visibly. Every city, feudal or royal, it has or wants to have its own physiognomy, by virtue of privileges solicited for itself. The common dependence almost seems to be an incentive to particularism. The 100 baronies are also strangers to each other. The few bourgeoisie is divided into hostile groups, even within the same city, divided and subdivided into a myriad of guilds competing with each other in the mercantile and productive classes. Between aristocracy and bourgeoisie, the bridges are almost broken, with great contempt for this and its activities. Between aristocracy and bourgeoisie on one side, plebs on the other, a very deep well. And even the plebs, in the very sphere of the same state, do not have equally connections and awareness of unity. The rural one is divided, as divided the fiefdoms. There is nothing in common between the rural plebs and those of the cities that have a favorable regime: and the economy of the former is not a little subordinated to the needs of the latter, that is, to the need for cheap bread. A compact mass of plebs is only in Naples, which came here from every part of the Kingdom but soon unified in its Neapolitan character and well identified and detached from the very province from which it came. In short, a fragmentary society, more perhaps than before, due to the action of governments who prefer to dissolve rather than strengthen the organic nuclei, and financially speculate on the love of distinguishing titles, due to the weaker pace of Italian life , of the diminished wealth, of the diminished work, of the immobilization of many capitals in luxury works, of the deviation towards purely feneratized investments, poor in social effects, sterile or almost from a political point of view.

In short, the signs of stagnation, more visible and certain than those of progress. The bad effects of all those events that have greatly changed the face of Europe since the end of the 15th century are fully felt: discovery of new countries outside the circle of action of Italian cities and states, displacement of old traffic routes , the formation of new centers of economic life in competition with the previous ones, foreign domination and, moreover, of a nation in decline. And let us also think, if we like, of a relaxation of the old energies and the old spirit of initiative, which once gave half of Italy a fast pace of life, a rapid circulation of social elements, their unity despite the heated contrasts. Or rather: those external circumstances had produced,

However, it can be admitted that the Italian of the seventeenth century, the Italian of the Spanish domination and of the Counter-Reformation, the average Italian living in Italy, has less of this energy and spirit of initiative, less creative force. This is also visible in the whole of intellectual activity, as well as in political and economic activity. The great poetry and the great art and the vigorous speculation of the previous age have fallen. Political thought and historiography have not kept the promises of the time of the politicians and historians of the ‘100. In the physical and natural sciences themselves, the first impetus was followed by a certain languor, the tendency to limit oneself to mere experimentalism and pure observation, cataloging, collection of scientific facts and materials. This gives us reason for the lesser appreciation that began to be made, outside of Italy, of Italian science and culture, although the influence of Italian physical and natural studies in Europe is considerable, there is a great echo of the studies and discoveries in the field of physiology and medicine and astronomy even between the 17th and 18th centuries. The homage he continued to give to Italy was more to its past than to its present. The Italian abroad had, after all, a shorter stature than in the previous age, although the intelligence and dexterity and versatility typical of his lineage continued to manifest in him, which reached a high degree in the Renaissance age. Of course, the judgment on Italians tends to get worse abroad. We speak of Italy as the country of Machiavellianism, in the interpretation that Machiavelli gave especially the Protestant countries, but also Catholic countries where they wanted to react to influences of Italian culture. The Italy of brigandage also appears, the Italy of dolce far niente, Italy all pomp and festivals and carnival. This negative judgment is undue, who looks at so many serious manifestations of Italian life even then, who looks at the substance of Italian life itself. And Milton, having returned to England after a few months’ residence in Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice (1638), proclaimed to his fellow citizens that he had always believed on his own, but now having known from direct experience, that Italy was not already, as they believed, an asylum for troublemakers but a hotel of humanity and civil knowledge. But that negative judgment on the Italy of knowledge and on moral Italy reflected, albeit distorting them either by too superficial observation and intelligence of Italian things, or by a nationalistic spirit.

The Dead End of Italian Life 3

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