The State, institutions and politics.
The town square is the personification of the public space but also a metaphor for our belonging to a community.
This section takes this metaphor as the starting point to narrate the collective events and phenomena that shaped the political and institutional evolution of Italy and the tensions that arose between acquiring citizenship and learning the – not always easy – rules of democratic coexistence.
War and violence have accompanied mankind throughout history, but in the 20th century they took on unprecedented proportions. Conflicts became total, with nearly all the nations on the planet taking part and millions of victims, including civilians. The aim was to annihilate the enemy, in the name of conflicting ideologies, with the potential to destroy and annihilate humankind itself. The international community reacted, trying to restrict the use of arms with international treaties and supranational organisations. This area narrates several episodes in this tragic past, so we do not forget that war is still an important part of our lives today.
Italy is not isolated from the rest of the world. It belongs to an international system built upon treaties and diplomatic agreements, from trade alliances to military responsibilities, which govern its relations with other countries around the world. Most of this system was put in place after the Second World War when the acceptance of democratic and antifascist values first of all, and then the demands of the Cold War determined the political position of our country in the world: Italy is one of the founding members of the European Community, a member of NATO, the UN, the OECD and the WTO and enjoys diplomatic relations with almost all the 193 nations in the world.
Over the past one hundred years, Italy has experimented with a variety of forms of government and Italians have had to deal with a number of different institutions, some imposed on them and others won after tough battles. Our republican institutions should not be taken for granted but do we really know everything there is to know about them? This theme area shows us how our State works and the “rules of the game” of the Italian Republic.
At the end of the Second World War, after the fall of the Fascist regime, Italians obtained democracy. In the first fifty years of the Republic, democracy was in the hands of the mass political parties: organisations with millions of people who had values, visions of society and goals which often conflicted but which shared the principles of the republican Constitution.
In the 20th century, Italy saw very different political institutions come and go: from the monarchy to the Republic, from Fascist dictatorship to the parliamentary system, without forgetting the forms of participation in political life and collective mobilisations which flourished outside the institutions. History, however, is not made just of great events and famous people but a continuous succession of collective moments which affect the lives of millions of ordinary people. The display retraces this process, highlighting the public, private, individual, collective, historic and chronical spheres.
In the 20th century, assemblies, demonstrations, strikes and parades were the real and symbolic places where public opinion and political life took place until, towards the end of the century, the virtual arenas of television studies and social media began replacing the squares and institutional and party headquarters. The political history of Italy is characterised by the merging of mass participation and the presence of charismatic leaders.
In the 20th century, the institutions did their best to establish a climate of civil coexistence which opposed any kind of violence and fought common and organised crime. This thematic area looks at the forms of illegality that had a profound effect on public life: political violence, organised crime, financial crimes and corruption that existed throughout the century.