The Italian Economic Miracle in Coeval Cinema: A Case Study on the Intellectual Reaction to Italy’s Social and Economic Change
ICER Working Paper Series 07/2013
30 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2013 Last revised: 19 Mar 2014
Date Written: June 7, 2013
This essay explores the subject of the aversion of intellectuals to the market economy. It does so by studying a selection of Italian films of the early 1960s whose themes are centered upon the economic boom of those years. The films reviewed are Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Michelangelo Antonioni's L’Eclisse, Dino Risi’s Il Sorpasso, and Vittorio De Sica’s Il Boom. These films present a critical view of the market forces that are changing the economy suggesting that they favor the ascent of morally controversial human types. Nothing good for society can come out of an economy that rewards hollow or insensitive individuals, while the honest and the conscientious are dramatically left behind, the films seem to say. Comparing these films with the concomitant economic scenario reveals a contrast between the existential anxieties and moral corruption that the films emphasize, and the story that economic and statistical data tell us. This contrast may be taken to imply that the anti-market stance expressed by the films was contiguous with the radical political culture of the time, a culture that bred the film-makers themselves. However, the economic criticism that transpires from the films does not reflect a radical ideology. Instead, the films communicate a more conservative criticism of the market economy by depicting it as a threat to traditional forms of social cohesion, personal conduct, and economic stability.
Keywords: Italian economic boom, Italian cinema, Capitalism, Intellectuals and society, Public engagement in political economy, Public understanding of economics
JEL Classification: P190, Z100
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation