chapter  5
31 Pages

The first crisis of the Liberal State, 1887–1900

The Italian economy was a dreadful mess at the end of the war. There was only one thing to be said in its favour: things were almost bound to get better. And so they did, more rapidly than anyone expected. By the autumn of 1945 most of the main-line railway tracks and bridges were restored. But the social and economic changes of the 1950s and 1960s were too rapid and overwhelming for stability. In the cities, transport, hospitals, schools, housing and welfare simply could not cope with the new demands; by 1969 they had virtually collapsed. The modern world, with its material wealth and its claims to individual rights, had suddenly arrived. These changes may be seen as part of an all-embracing process of secularization of Italian society. In this view, prosperity, towns and education undermined belief, or rather undermined the Church's traditional hold over welfare, schools and propaganda. It could not easily be absorbed within the old hierarchical institutions.