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New Left Review I/204, March-April 1994


Bianca Beccalli

The Modern Women’s Movement in Italy

Modern Italian feminism established itself in the early 1970s, expanding with remarkable strength and radicalism from its middle-class base to become a popular mobilization with an extensive network of activists throughout the organized labour movement. By the end of the decade, however, feminism was in decline; and the beginning of the 1980s saw it virtually disappear as a movement. It lost its visibility in political struggles and grew ever more fragmented and out of touch, as feminist activists increasingly committed their energies to private projects and experiences, whether of an individual or communal nature. Thus it was that the ‘new’ feminist movement, following the example of other ‘new social movements’ of the 1970s, evolved into just another form of lifestyle politics. At this time many attempted to account for the decline of these movements that had once aroused such optimism and political expectation, and in particular to question whether they had in fact disappeared or merely entered a period of inactivity.

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