As a significant political force, the extraparliamentary Left in Italy covered the period 1969-76. However, its intellectual inspirations predate 1969 and its political legacies can be traced beyond the mid-1970s. An unstable collage of distinct political traditions and experiences, its impact was both benign and destructive. On one hand, the pressures exercised by its militants helped to demolish some of the most archaic and authoritarian features of schools and workplaces: its groups played a vital role in the cultural revolution of 1968-9 in which Italy struggled, with partial success, to modernize its politics and institutions and to absorb the social consequences of the economic miracle. On the other hand, pursuit of the mirage of revolution eventually alienated many prospective future leaders from all political involvement and led some of the more disillusioned rank and file members into terrorism once mass protest had subsided and the extraparliamentary groups themselves had disintegrated.