Entrepreneurship, knowledge and employment

Italian economists, paradigmatic revolutions and economic development in Italy

Pisanelli Simona, University of Salento

A widespread debate on the issue of economic development arose in Italy between 1874 (when Ferrara started a harsh controversy against the “statalists” in economics) and 1917 (year of the death of Schmoller, a point of reference for many Italian economists). Reconstructing it seems interesting both at the historiographic level and at the level of understanding the diffusion of different economic conceptions. After the political unification of Italy, it was necessary to build a process of economic and social unification, in a context characterized by transformations in the international economy and by an increasingly sharp confrontation between the European countries on the colonial policies. The Italian economists were engaged in order to define economic policies that would promote the industrialization and modernization of the country, reducing at the same time the wide level of poverty. This aspect was crucial for avoiding the worsening of class conflicts and for diminishing the gap between different geographical and economic areas of the country. The comparison between economists, intertwined with such political issues, became radical: liberals continued to emphasize the role of the market, while the others – without questioning it – assigned a leading role to the State, in order to facilitate the modernization of the country. This comparison was also linked to the emergence of new approaches in economics, determined by the decline of the classical political economy, the consolidation of Marginalism (Pantaleoni, Pareto), and the challenge of Marxism. This contribution focuses on: 1. the reconstruction of the debate among economists on the economic development after the unification of Italy; 2. the intertwine between this debate and the spread of Marginalism; 3. the gap between theoretical progress in economics and the economic policies promoting Italian economic development.


Keywords: Italian economists, Marginalism, German Historical School of Economics, Economic growth

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