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New Left Review 21, May-June 2003

Leading historian of contemporary Italy, and animator of civil resistance to Berlusconi, Paul Ginsborg offers a profile of the media magnate as political ruler, and the project he represents for the future of Italian society. The contradictions of the current regime of the Right, and the chances of a broad opposition to it.



Much of liberal European opinion—French and German, in particular—responded to Silvio Berlusconi’s general election victory of 2001 with a chorus of unease. Do the method of his victory and the nature of his project herald a new and limited model of European democracy, the most ambitious of the many populist answers to the malaises of the Continent? And again, a question oft-repeated but which sounds historically ingenuous to many a sophisticated Italian ear: are there parallels between Italy’s role as a precursor in the early 1920s and what is happening now? [1] See for example, Ignacio Ramonet, ‘Berlusconi’, Le Monde diplomatique, February 2002. Primo Levi wrote, as long ago as 1974, that ‘every age has its Fascism’, and went on to warn that ‘one can reach such a condition in many ways, not necessarily by means of terror and police intimidation, but also by withholding or manipulating information, by polluting the judicial system, by paralysing the school system’. [2] Article from Corriere della Sera, 8 May 1974, reprinted in Levi, Opere, vol. I, Turin 1997, p. 1187.

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Paul Ginsborg, ‘The Patrimonial Ambitions of Silvio B’, NLR 21: £3

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