Between civilization and decivilization: the case of Italy

Between civilization and decivilization: the case of Italy

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Call for papers from “Quaderni di Sociologia”, Torino

The recent Sars-CoV-2 pandemic has reopened in Italy a debate on the civicness of the behaviors of Italians. Many of them did not respect the precautionary rules established by the Government against the pandemic. It is not just about individual behavior:  some regional authorities refused those rules with a formal act.
Events like these have reopened an old debate: can Italians, or rather some specific groups among them, be regarded as scarcely or frankly uncivilized people? In short: is Italy a country with a limited degree of civilization?
The purpose of this call for papers is to go beyond these unspecified grievances. Instead, our purpose is to stimulate the presentation of theoretical, methodological and empirical research — aimed at describing, comparing and explaining the phenomena considered here.

In addition to sociologists, the call is also directed to anthropologists, economists, historians, jurists, psychologists, political scientists.

A starting point, although not the only one, may be the analysis of the processes of ‘civilization’ and ‘decivilization’ carried out by Norbert Elias in various essays[1]. The two processes intersect, often overlap. Elias’ main topics are violence, socialization and social interaction models.

Another reference is the consideration of Italy as an incomplete, non-pacified State.

Research objects can be, for example, the following topics:

Italy as an imperfect State, which failed to monopolize the use of violence; to eradicate competing organizations such as mafias; to defeat tax evasion; to reduce the territorial gap between North and South; to control the use of the territory (e.g. illegal building), to definitely hinder forms of widespread illegality.

The use of violence in social relations: for example against women, foreigners, public officials, and in collective actions.

Other processes of decivilization, or civil degradation, such as physical or verbal aggressions in daily life and the media, predatory economic activities, changes within socialization agencies (families and schools), poor governance of the territory, trivialization of emotions in the media.

Some recommended research issues:

  • The impact of repeated tax and building amnesties on Italian’s fiscal civilization, in specific areas and periods.
  • The consequences of a spreading predatory economic ethic. It justified mafia activities, corruption, moral hazard, tax evasion, illegal occupation of real estate, and other illegal practices aimed at obtaining goods without produce them.
  • The consequences of actions carried out by coalitions for distributive purposes on the legislation and the behavior of associations and social groups.
  • The possible wide spreading of a “gray area” where the legal system, the legality, gradually loses validity.
  • The evaluation of measures in order to promote social integration or cohesion. Sometimes the effects of such measures may be “perverse”, that is the opposite of the announced intentions of their promoters.
  • The changes occurred in recent decades in education and socialization agencies. How to evaluate the impact of these changes on the socialization of young people and on the economic development?
  • The devaluation — at least over the last decade, in public debate and politics — of some central values of contemporary societies — such as those of knowledge, competence, science, independence of judgment.
  • What are the signs of changes in shared values (detected for example by the European Value Survey), which attest the spread of the considered behaviors and their evaluations?
  • Are the described syndromes detectable only in Italy or can they also be ascertained in other countries? What properties of them are comparable? What theories and hypotheses can be used in interpreting and explaining them?

Deadlines and guidelines
Abstracts are due by June 01, 2021. All abstracts (500 words), with 5 keywords in English, should be sent as e-mail attachments (Word format) to:,;
Decisions concerning the selection of articles will be given by July 10, 2021. Submission of first versions of articles to be refereed should be sent to the editors by November 30, 2021.

[1] The Collected Works of Norbert Elias, University College Dublin Press, 2014. especially the volumes 3, 11, 15. See also S.  Mennell (1990),  Decivilising  processes: theoretical significance and some lines of research, “International Sociology”, V, 2, pp. 205-223.

A more extended version of this call, with bibliography, will be published on the website of “Quaderni di sociologia” (n. 84/2020).


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