There is little that hasn’t gone wrong for Italy in the last three decades. Economic growth has flatlined, infrastructure has crumbled, and out-of-work youth find their futures stuck on hold. These woes have been reflected in the country’s politics, from Silvio Berlusconi’s scandals to the rise of the far right.
Many commentators blame Italy’s malaise on cultural ills—pointing to the corruption of public life or a supposedly endemic backwardness. In this reading, Italy has failed to converge with the neoliberal reforms mounted by other European countries, leaving it to trail behind the rest of the world.
First They Took Rome offers a different perspective: Italy isn’t failing to keep up with its international peers but farther along the same path of decline they are following. In the 1980s, Italy boasted the West’s strongest Communist Party; today, social solidarity is collapsing, working people feel ever more atomized, and democratic institutions grow increasingly hollow.
Studying the rise of forces like Matteo Salvini’s Lega, this book shows how the populist right drew on a deep well of social despair, ignored by the liberal centre. Italy’s recent history is a warning from the future—the story of a collapse of public life that risks spreading across the West.
“In this well-researched and engagingly written book David Broder shows how the rise of Lega and of its current leader Matteo Salvini emerged out of decades of economic stagnation, social despair and political nihilism in Italian society. And how the abject failure of the Italian Left to represent workers’ interests has contributed to the success of the Lega’s nativism.”
“Expertly dissects the political and social trends that account for the League’s revival since 2013.”
“No other book offers such a clear and concise analysis of just how much Italy has changed, for the worse in this neo-liberal world.”
“Highly useful in understanding how politics have changed since the Second World War, and where Italy is going in the very unpredictable Europe of today.”
“David Broder has done us a great service with this succinct account of Italian neoliberal democracy, and he tells it well. If we see what has occurred in Italy as exceptional then we not only don’t understand what has taken place, but we don’t get the warning that what happens there can happen here. We have been warned.”
“Broder unravels the mystery of how one of Europe’s most stable democracies, boasting superb labour rights and a thriving manufacturing economy, became a basket case almost over night—plagued by political instability, poverty, and mass emigration.”