The Uses of the Traditional Sector in Italy: Why Declining Classes Survive

  • Suzanne Berger
Part of the Edinburgh Studies in Sociology book series (ESIS)


Like other advanced industrial states, Italy regards the survival of its traditional sector as a temporary if necessary evil. National plans, politicians, leaders of the major economic associations all proclaim that the future of Italy has no room for the small-scale, familial, protected economic unit. Advanced industrial societies, so the argument runs, require enterprises that are competitive, geared to profit-making, adaptable to changes in markets and technology, and structured for efficiency in production. And whatever the differences among the extremely diverse actors, firms, and classes that in Italy are usually called traditional, they all have in common a pattern of economic behaviour so different from that of the model firm of advanced industrial society that only the most radical and most improbable transformations could save them. Opinions diverge on the precise characteristics of a firm that class it as traditional - size or labour-capital ratio or productivity or management style? But for political purposes the outcome of these definitional quarrels is irrelevant, since all diagnoses and vocabularies converge on the same set of actors: the small shops, the small industries, and the small farms. This disparate group of economic firms and those who work in them are now identified by Italian political elites as traditional, unproductive, and in some sense, parasitic.


Small Firm Traditional Sector Modern Sector Italian Firm Home Worker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Frank Bechhofer and Brian Elliott 1981

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  • Suzanne Berger

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