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Political Science Comparative Politics

Search for Good Government

Understanding the Paradox of Italian Democracy

by (author) Filippo Sabetti

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
May 2000
Comparative Politics
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    Publish Date
    May 2000
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Sabetti argues that poor government performance in contemporary Italy has been an unintended consequence of attempts to craft institutions for good - or democratic - government. He shows that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, a chief problem in contemporary Italy is not the absence of the rule of law but, rather, the presence of rule by law or too many laws. A principal conclusion of his study is that postwar Italian politics can best be understood as a laboratory for revealing how and why a search for good government can generate antithetical and counter intentional results. The Italian experience has important implications for all those who aspire to be self-governing - as opposed to state-governed - for it shows what people can do to enhance human cooperation in collective-action dilemmas,and suggests the probable results if "democracy" continues to be identified with parliamentary government and representative assemblies rather than with the universality of the village or the local community.

The Search for Good Government changes our understanding of postwar Italian politics and provides new ways to evaluate the impact of the political changes that have occurred since 1992, arguing for a perceptual shift in the way we think about politics and the educative role of public institutions.

About the author

Filippo Sabetti is a professor in the Department of Political Science at McGill University.

Filippo Sabetti's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A superb book. It deals with a question of fundamental importance, offers a powerful, non-obvious, and convincing analysis, and sheds new and penetrating light on the particular case examined. Sabetti offers an interpretation that stands counter to the prevailing orthodoxy and recasts the understanding of Italian politics. Indeed, it the best book that I have read on Italian politics in a very long time." Alan Zuckerman, Department of Political Science, Brown University.
"An excellent study that builds on the James Buchanan tradition of focusing on constitutional choice and the implications that follow from a theory of constitutional choice ... The Search for Good Government is stimulating to read and addresses many of the crucial issues facing the contemporary world." Vincent Ostrom, co-director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and professor emeritus of political science, Indiana University.

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