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

See all articles by Stefano Adamo

Stefano Adamo

Banja Luka University; International Centre for Economic Research (ICER)

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

Adamo, Stefano, The Italian Economic Miracle in Coeval Cinema: A Case Study on the Intellectual Reaction to Italy’s Social and Economic Change (June 7, 2013). ICER Working Paper Series 07/2013. Available at SSRN: or

Stefano Adamo (Contact Author)

Banja Luka University

Bulevar vojvode Petra Bojovića 1a
Banja Luka, 78 000
Bosnia and Herzegovina

International Centre for Economic Research (ICER) ( email )

Villa Gualino
Viale Settimio Severo, 63
10133 Torino

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics