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COURSE NAME: "The Italian Economy"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Niccolò Serri
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 8:20-9:40 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisites: Junior Standing, EC 201 and EC 202

The course tracks the economic history of modern Italy from unification until nowadays, with a focus on the current problems and future prospects of the Italian economy in the context of the european integration process and of the economic and financial globalization. All major issues in the reform agenda of the last decades are covered, situating them in the political and socio-economic evolution of Italian history. Topics that will be covered include, among others: the economics of Italian unification, the economic impact of the fascist regime, industrialization, the Italian state-owned enterprise sector and its privatization, administrative reforms and public finance, the politics of the European stability pact and the consequences of Great Recession.

Despite being one of the largest economies in the world and part of the club of the most advanced industrialized countries, Italy has stagnated for the past three decades, lagging behind its European partners. Many scholars and the international press heralded the country as the ‘sick man of Europe’. 

The course aims to provide an analysis of the current situation of the Italian economy in the context of the European integration process and financial globalization, with a focus on the aftermaths of the Great Recession. The Italian political agenda of the last years has been characterized by numerous attempts at institutional and economic reform, ranging from new labor market laws to changes in social policy and public finance. 

To frame the study of the Italian economy and the choices of its current political elite, the course adopts the key insights of economic history, placing the origins of the present stagnation within the long-run development of the country in the post-war period. 

The first part of the course concentrates on the long-term economic history of Italy, providing a bird’s eye view of the country’s economic development and structural change from agriculture to the industrial and service sectors. Themes include: the drivers of post-war economic growth, the emergence of a north-south divide, the history of industrial policies and state-owned industry, the pattern of industrial relations and the development of an unbalanced welfare system, as well as the growth of the national public debt.

The second part of the course narrows the focus on the current predicament of the Italian economy, taking into consideration the creeping crisis of the country since the mid-1990s, when Italy started diverging from other core European countries. Themes include: the sluggish growth of productivity, the Maastricht system and the role of Italy in the Euro currency area, the impact of the 2008 crunch and the European sovereign debt crisis, the attempted reform of the country’s labor market and social policy.

  1. A solid understanding of Italy’s economic history and development model in the post-war period.

  1. The capacity to compare and contrast the merits of various economic theories by applying them to the evolution of the Italian economy.

  1. A firm comprehension of current trends and prospects of the Italian economy, with particular focus on the origins and key features of its present gridlock.

  1. Insights on the political economy of Italian institutions and governments since the mid-1990s.

  1. Knowledge of the economics of European integration and monetary union.


Class participationStudents are expected to follow every lecture and provide their opinion in weekly forums on moodle. 20%
Midterm exam The midterm exam will focus on the first part of the course on Italian economic history. It will be a mix of multiple choice and open questions30%
final examThe final exam will cover the second part of the course, with a focus on the current problems of the Italian economy. 30%
Final presentationStudents will prepare a presentation of 15-20 minutes. Topics will be agreed upon with the instructor beforehand.20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

The course tracks the economic history of modern Italy from unification until nowadays, with a focus on the current problems and future prospects of the Italian economy in the context of the european integration process and of the economic and financial globalization. All major issues in the reform agenda of the last decades are covered, situating them in the political and socio-economic evolution of Italian history. Topics that will be covered include, among others: the economics of Italian unification, the economic impact of the fascist regime, industrialization, the Italian state-owned enterprise sector and its privatization, administrative reforms and public finance, the politics of the European stability pact and the consequences of Great Recession.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.






Week 1


Italian economic history: the long view

Emanuele Felice and Giovanni Vecchi, ‘Italy’s Modern Economic Growth, 1861–2011’, Enterprise & Society, 16:2, 2015, pp. 225-248, doi:10.1017/eso.2014.23

OR Paolo Malanima and Vera Zamagni, ‘150 years of the Italian economy, 1861–2010’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 15:1, 2010, pp. 1-20, doi:10.1080/13545710903465507


Italy: 150 years as a case study

Marcello De Cecco, ‘The Italian Economy Seen from Abroad over 150 Years’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 21, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0021/qse-21.pdf?language_id=1



Week 2


Pre-modern Italy: a slow decline

Paolo Malanima, "The Italian Economy Before Unification, 1300–1861." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance.  April 30, 2020. Oxford University Press. Available at https://oxfordre.com/economics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190625979.001.0001/acrefore-9780190625979-e-536

AND Carlo Maria Cipolla. "The decline of Italy: the case of a fully matured economy." The Economic History Review 5.2 (1952): 178-187 (optional)


The sources of modern Italian growth

Claire Giordano, Gianni Toniolo and Francersco Zollino ‘Long run trends in Italian productivity’, Bank of Italy Questioni di Economia e Finanza, 20, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/qef/2017-0406/QEF_406.pdf?language_id=1



Week 3


Inequality and well-being in Italy

Giovanni Vecchi and Andrea Brandolini. ‘The Well Being of Italians: a Comparative Historical Approach, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 19, 2011. Available at  https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0019/QSEn_19.pdf?language_id=1


Regional divergence and the Southern question

Emanuele Felice. ‘The roots of a dual equilibrium: GDP, productivity, and structural change in the Italian regions in the long run (1871–2011)’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 40, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2017-0040/QSE-40.pdf?language_id=1

AND John Helliwell and Robert Putnam, ‘Economic Growth and Social Capital in Italy’, Eastern Economic Journal, 21:3, 1995, pp. 295-307 (optional)


The structure of Italian firms and the business history of Italy

Franco Amatori, Matteo Bugamelli and Andrea Colli. ‘Italian Firms in History: Size, Technology and Entrepreneurship’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 13, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0013/QSEn_13.pdf?language_id=1


Week 4


The rise and decline of state-owned enterprises in Italy

Pierangelo Toninelli and Michelangelo Vasta. ‘State owned enterprises (1936-1983)’, in Andrea Colli and Michelangelo Vasta (eds.). Forms of enterprise in 20th century Italy: Boundaries, structures and strategies, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, 2010, pp. 52-87

AND/OR Patrizio Bianchi. ‘The IRI in Italy: Strategic role and political constraints’, West European Politics, 10:2, 1986, pp. 269-290 ()


Innovation and economic growth in Italy

Federico Barbiellini Amidei, John Cantwell and Anna Spadavecchia. ‘innovation and foreign technology in Italy, 1861-2011’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 7, 2011, pp. 5-33 and 40-45. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0007/qsen_07.pdf?language_id=1


Education and human capital

Giuseppe Bertola and Paolo Sestito. ‘A Comparative Perspective on Italy’s Human Capital Accumulation’, Bank of Italy Econonic History Working Papers, 6, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0006/Qse_06.pdf?language_id=1


Week 5


Italy and the global market

Giovanni Federico and Nikolaus Wolf. ‘Comparative Advantages in Italy: a long-run perspective’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Papers, 9, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0009/QSEn_09.pdf?language_id=1


Italian migrations: from emigration to immigration

Matteo Gomellini and Cormac O’Grada, ‘Outward and Inward Migrations in Italy: A Historical Perspective’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 8, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0008/QESn_08.pdf?language_id=1



Week 6


Midterm exam


The burdens of the administrative system

Magda Bianco and Giulio Napolitano. ‘The Italian Administrative System: Why a Source of Competitive Disadvantage?’, Bank of Italy Economic History Working Paper, 24, 2011. Available at https://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/quaderni-storia/2011-0024/Quaderno-storiae-conomica-24.pdf?language_id=1



Week 7


The peculiarities of the Italian welfare state

Maurizio Ferrera, Matteo Jeossula and Valeria Fargion, ‘At the roots of the unbalanced Italian welfare state’, Paper prepared for the seminar organized by Banca d’Italia Area – Ricerca Economica e Relazioni Internazionali, March 2013. Available at athttps://www.bancaditalia.it/pubblicazioni/altri-atti-seminari/2013/paper-Ferrera.pdf

OR Chiara Saraceno, ‘The Ambivalent Familism of the Italian Welfare State’, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 1:1, 1994, pp. 60–82. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Chiara_Saraceno/publication/249289745_The_Ambivalent_Familism_of_the_Italian_Welfare_State/links/568784d808aebccc4e151550.pdf


Industrial relations: between conflict and consensus.

Lucio Baccaro and Valeria Pulignano, ‘Employment relations in Italy’, in Greg J. Bamber, Russell D. Lansbury, Nick Wailes and Chris F. Wright (eds.), International and comparative employment relations, Sage, London, 2011, pp. 138-168 (Moodle). Draft paper version available at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/74b4/5e01d1bee6f4a71cd3f31ed642044787f064.pdf?_ga=2.83725854.942978748.1565520597-1968628081.1565520597



Week 8


The Italian public debt

Bartoletto, Silvana, Bruno Chiarini, and Elisabetta Marzano. "Is the Italian public debt really unsustainable? An historical comparison (1861-2010)." (2013). Available at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2251792


The European Monetary Union

Sylvester Eijffinger and Jakob de Haan. European Monetary and Fiscal Policy, Oxford University Press, New York, 2000, pp. 3-31

Available at https://ideas.repec.org/p/tiu/tiutis/a056022b-c6b1-4c89-bcd5-309377a399aa.html


Rescued by Europe? The politics of the stability and Growth Pact

Maurizio Ferrera and Elisabetta Gualmini, Rescued by Europe? Social and Labour Market Reforms in Italy from Maastricht to Berlusconi, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2004, pp 9-31



Week 9


Reforming the Italian economy: labor market deregulation and business privatization


Paolo Barbieri, Stefani Scherer, ‘Labour Market Flexibilization and its Consequences in Italy’, European Sociological Review,  25: 6, December 2009, Pages 677–692

AND Andrea Goldstein, Privatization in Italy 1993 2002: Goals, Institutions, Outcomes, and Outstanding Issues, CESifo Working Paper Series, 912, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=396324

The impact of the 2008 financial crisis in Italy


Hanan Morsy and Silvia Sgherri, ‘After the crisis: assessing the damage in Italy’, International Monetary Fund Working paper, WP/10/244, October 2010. Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2010/wp10244.pdf

AND Elisa Borghi, European Economic and Social Committee, The impact of anti-crisis measures and the social and employment situation: Italy study, European Union, 2013. Available at: https://www.eesc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/resources/docs/qe-32-12-542-en-c.pdf


Week 10


Italy in the European sovereign debt crisis


Philip R. Lane, ‘The European Sovereign Debt Crisis’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26:3, pp. 2014, pp. 49-68

AND Jonathan Hopkin, ‘A slow fuse: Italy and the EU debt crisis’, The international spectator 47:4, 2012, pp. 35-48.


The reform of the Italian welfare state


Stefano Sacchi (2018) The Italian Welfare State in the Crisis: Learning to Adjust?, South European Society and Politics, 23:1, 29-46

AND Maria Moschella, ‘Italy and the Fiscal Compact: Why does a country commit to permanent austerity?’ Rivista Italiana Di Scienza Politica, 47:2, 2017, 205-225. Doi:10.1017/ipo.2017.7 (optional)



Week 11


The Corona Shock

Reading to be selected from the most recent Economic Bulletins of the Bank of Italy closer to the day of the class.



Week 12


Student presentation


Revision class