democracy in italy

been reading robert putnam, et. al.’s “Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy” that i learned about via m.g. miles over @those who can see. (yes, that’s the “Bowling Alone” and E Pluribus Unum putnam. i have to say, the man has certainly done some very interesting research, despite the fact that he sometimes doesn’t like his own findings.)

in “Making Democracy Work,” putnam and his colleagues found that … gee whiz … democracy just works better in northern italy than in southern italy. way better, in fact. i haven’t finished the book yet, but the authors seem to put it down to the histories and political traditions of the two regions — and there is, of course, something to that. but there are even more obvious (at least to me), underlying, biological reasons that i think explain the differences: 1) different populations — broadly speaking, more germanic in the north, more greeks and arabs and others in the south; 2) the old iq differences; and 3) differences in mating patterns which, no doubt, affect social behaviors like trust. these biological aspects of the two(+) populations and their histories are all related — intertwined — next to impossible to tease apart.

i’ll write about putnam’s finding some more when i’ve finished reading the book, but for now, here are some teasers [pgs. 91, 94, 98-99]:

“The Civic Community: Testing The Theory

“Lacking detailed ethnographic accounts of hundreds of communities throughout the regions of Italy, how can we assess the degree to which social and political life in each of those regions approximates the ideal of a civic community? What systematic evidence is there on patterns of social solidarity and civic participation? We shall here present evidence on four indicators of the ‘civic-ness’ of regional life — two that correspond directly to Tocqueville’s broad conception of what we have termed the civic community, and two that refer more immediately to political behavior.

“One key indicator of civic sociability must be the vibrancy of associational life. Fortunately, a census of all associations in Italy, local as well as national, enables us to specify precisely the number of amateur soccer clubs, choral societies, hiking clubs, bird-watching groups, literacy circles, hunters’ associations, Lions Clubs, and the like in each community and region of Italy….

“Leaving aside labor unions for the moment, sports clubs are by far the most common sort of secondary association among Italians, but other types of cultural and leisure activities are also prominent. Standardized for population differences, these data show that in the efflorescence of their associational life, some regions of Italy rival Tocqueville’s America….

“Membership in sports clubs, cultural and recreational groups, community and social action organizations, educational and youth groups, and so on is roughly twice as common in the most civic regions as in the least civic regions….”

the most civic regions being in northern italy, and the least civic ones in the south.

“Although turnout itself in general elections is not a good measure of citizen motivation, one special feature of the Italian ballot does provide important information on regional political practices. All voters in national elections must choose a single party list, and legislative seats are allocated to parties by proportional representation. In addition, however, voters can, if they wish, indicate a preference for a particular candidate from the party list they have chosen. Nationally speaking, only a minority of voters exercise this ‘preference vote,’ but in areas where party labels are largely a cover for patron-client networks, these preference votes are eagerly solicited by contending factions. In such areas, the preference vote becomes essential to the patron-client exchange relationship.

“The incidence of preference voting has long been acknowledged by students of Italian politics as a reliable indicator of personalism, factionalism, and patron-client politics, and we shall shortly present additional confimation of this interpretation. In that sense, preference voting can be taken as an indicator for the absence of a civic community. Regional differences in the use of the preference vote have been highly stable for decades, ranging from 17 percent in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia [in the north] to 50 percent in Campanis and Calabria [in the south]….

“Regions where citizens use personal preference votes, but do not vote in referenda, do not join civic associations, and do not read newspapers are the same regions whose leaders [when asked by the researchers] describe their regional politics as clientelistic, rather than programmatic.

“Evidence from both citizens and politicians helps us trace the incidence of personalized patronage politics. Citizens in the less civic regions report much more frequent personal contact with their representatives than in the civic north. Moreover, these contacts involve primarily personal matters, rather than broader public issues. In our 1988 survey, 20 percent of voters in the least civic regions acknowledged that they occasionally ‘seek personal help about licenses, jobs, and so on from a politician,’ as contrasted with only 5 percent of the voters in the most civic regions.”

and, the inevitable godfather reference:

previously: democracy and endogamous mating practices and clientelism in greece

update 11/11: see also italian genetics

(note: comments do not require an email. why, yes, i am a little tired today now that you mention it.)

25 Comments

  1. I think it might be interesting to distinguish between Northern, Southern and Central Italy (ie, Tuscany, Rome) when doing these sociobiological analyses of Italy.
    I have reason to believe that Central Italy might be different from the other two in some ways, and not just in the sense of being intermediate between them in its attributes.

    Reply

  2. @ihtg – “I have reason to believe that Central Italy might be different from the other two in some ways, and not just in the sense of being intermediate between them in its attributes.”

    yes, i think you’re right. emmanuel todd talks about the uniqueness of central italy — strong tendencies toward communism, for instance (m.g. miles posted some of todd’s maps on the differences between the italian regions here) — but i’m not sure that putnam, et. al., address central italy explicitly. they kinda focus on the north-south divide. but i will keep my eyes peeled for stuff on central italy, too.

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  3. >>> “there are even more obvious (at least to me), underlying, biological reasons that i think explain the differences: 1) different populations — broadly speaking, more germanic in the north, more greeks and arabs and others in the south; 2) the old iq differences;”

    Aside from the Greek ancestry, there’s no evidence for any of that. You should know better.

    Reply

  4. @italianthro – “Aside from the Greek ancestry, there’s no evidence for any of that.”

    no evidence for the lombards settling in northern italy? really? no evidence for arabs settling in sicily? really?

    @italianthro – “You should know better.”

    to take a page out of the gameboyz’ book — watch the ‘shaming language.’

    Reply

  5. I think it might be interesting to distinguish between Northern, Southern and Central Italy (ie, Tuscany, Rome)

    Indeed, I didn’t include these in the linked post, but the dominant family structures from 1500-1900 (according to E. Todd) can be seen in map form here, and the dominant farming systems from 1500-1900 can be seen here. Central Italy quite stands out in both cases.

    Also there’s this odd fact about lactose tolerance in Italy, from Gene Expression:

    A study of regional differences in prevalence of primary adult lactose malabsorption in Italy was conducted on 205 subjects. Their origin was determined by their grandparents’ birthplace, 89 from northern, 65 from central, and 51 from southern areas of Italy… Prevalence of lactose malabsorption is significantly lower in the central sample (19%) than in the northern (52%) and southern (41%) samples (p less than 0.01). This finding contrasts with the hypothesis of a continuous increase in frequency of lactose malabsorption from northern to southern Europe and is probably due to the complex genetic history of the Italian population.

    Not that I understand its significance, but if you’re interested, a general look at distribution of Y-DNA haplogroups in the different regions of Italy can be had here.

    Reply

  6. @m.g. – “Prevalence of lactose malabsorption is significantly lower in the central sample (19%) than in the northern (52%) and southern (41%) samples (p less than 0.01).”

    how interesting! i had no idea. thnx!

    Reply

  7. >>> “no evidence for the lombards settling in northern italy? really? no evidence for arabs settling in sicily? really?”

    Evidence of settlement is not evidence of admixture. Indeed, the Arabs were eventually expelled, and Germanic peoples also settled in Southern Italy. Nowhere did either group leave much of a “biological” mark.

    And don’t forget about your unsubstantiated claim of “IQ differences”. You know by now that PISA scores are not equivalent to IQs, so stop spreading misinformation.

    Reply

  8. @italianthro – “Indeed, the Arabs were eventually expelled….”

    i’m sure there wasn’t a 100% cleansing of berber/arab genes from sicily. that would be an impossibility.

    @italianthro – “and Germanic peoples also settled in Southern Italy.”

    yes, but there has more germanic influence in the northern parts of italy than in the south. that is the point.

    @italianthro – “Nowhere did either group leave much of a ‘biological’ mark.”

    but they didn’t leave a 0% biological mark, either.

    @italianthro – “You know by now that PISA scores are not equivalent to IQs, so stop spreading misinformation.”

    pisa scores are, indeed, an excellent proxy for measuring iq or g.

    you need to calm down, take a deep breath, and quit being so hostile and rude here. this is my blog and i won’t put up with it. if you want to rant, do it on your own blog. thank you.

    Reply

  9. >>> “but they didn’t leave a 0% biological mark, either.”

    The available data shows no more than a few percentage points of Arab/Berber or Germanic admixture in any given part of Italy — hardly enough to support your theory of significant biological differences between North and South.

    >>> “pisa scores are, indeed, an excellent proxy for measuring iq or g.”

    No, I’m afraid they’re not.

    Reply

  10. @italianthro – “hardly enough to support your theory of significant biological differences between North and South.”

    i didn’t say anything about “significant” biological differences — i just said different — which is the case.

    @italianthro – “No, I’m afraid they’re not.”

    well, i’m afraid i don’t have access to that paper, so i can’t evaluate it (at this time). in general, though, pisa scores are a good proxy for iq, so i don’t see why they shouldn’t work for italy as well.

    in any case, neither the genetic differences between north and south nor the iq differences between north and south are my main point. i mentioned them to give a nod to other biological theories out there for why there are cultural difference between northern and southern italy — which even you have to admit exist.

    my working theory is that it has to do with the inbreeding levels in italy — which are, beyond a doubt, much greater in sicily/southern italy than in the north. since inbreeding should, theoretically, make the evolution of altruism within a population easier, then there ought to be more “genes for altruism” in southern italy than in the northern populations. this could explain why there is less civic behavior and trust between non-family members in southern italy than in the north (see putnam above in post), and could very well account for the stunted economic growth of the south.

    if you are correct in your refutations of the genetic and iq differences between north and south (and i don’t deny that you very well may be), then the absence of those differences might go a long way to supporting my theory for why northern and southern italy are so different. (^_^)

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  11. @jayman – “see my rather lengthy post on the topic of IQ differences within Europe on AnthroScape….”

    thnx, jayman! i shall do so.

    Reply

  12. >>> “i didn’t say anything about “significant” biological differences — i just said different — which is the case.”

    Um, you called Northern Italians “Germanic” and Southern Italians “Arab/Berber”, and said that that explained the disparities between them. Those would be significant biological differences.

    >>> “in general, though, pisa scores are a good proxy for iq”

    That’s not true. In fact, no measure of educational achievement is a good proxy for IQ:

    “Whereas the correlations indicate that around 50% to 60% of the variance in GCSE examination points score can be statistically explained by the prior g factor, by the same token a large proportion of the variance is not accounted for by g. Some of the remaining variance in GCSE scores will be measurement error, but some will be systematic. Thus, non-g factors have a substantial impact on educational attainment. These may include: school attendance and engagement; pupils’ personality traits, motivation and effort; the extent of parental support; and the provision of appropriate learning experiences, teaching quality, school ethos, and structure among other possible factors (Petrides, Chamorro-Premuzic, Frederickson, & Furnham, 2005; Strand, 2003).”

    http://www.elsevier.com/authored_subject_sections/S05/S05_357/top/intel.pdf

    >>> “biological theories out there for why there are cultural difference between northern and southern italy — which even you have to admit exist.”

    They exist among pseudo-scholars like Richard Lynn and White Nationalist keyboard warriors, but not in any legitimate academic circles.

    Reply

  13. >>> “see my rather lengthy post on the topic of IQ differences within Europe on AnthroScape”

    I must’ve missed that thread when you started it back in September. Here’s my reply:

    http://s1.zetaboards.com/anthroscape/single/?p=693674&t=4513114

    >>> “there ARE measurable genetic differences between northern/central and southern Italians”

    There are “measurable” genetic differences in all populations. So what? You’re linking to my own post there, and it’s not helping you because it actually further disproves the claim of significant biological differences.

    Reply

  14. @italianthro – “Um, you called Northern Italians ‘Germanic’ and Southern Italians ‘Arab/Berber’, and said that that explained the disparities between them.”

    no, i did not. read the post again.

    @italianthro – “They exist among pseudo-scholars like Richard Lynn and White Nationalist keyboard warriors, but not in any legitimate academic circles.”

    again, please re-read what i wrote. i was referring to the cultural differences between northern and southern italy which, as i said, even you must admit exist. i didn’t mean that you should admit to their being biological differences.

    Reply

  15. >>> “no, i did not. read the post again.”

    This is what you wrote:

    “democracy just works better in northern italy than in southern italy. way better, in fact. […] but there are even more obvious (at least to me), underlying, biological reasons that i think explain the differences: 1) different populations — broadly speaking, more germanic in the north, more greeks and arabs and others in the south;”

    People can judge for themselves.

    >>> “again, please re-read what i wrote. i was referring to the cultural differences between northern and southern italy”

    All right. It was worded ambiguously, but I see what you were saying now.

    Reply

  16. @italianthro – “,,,broadly speaking, more…”

    yes. people can judge for themselves.

    and, like i’ve said a couple of times now, i admit that i should’ve worded myself better. that should be enough.

    (and, anyway, both tian, et. al., and dienekes have both suggested that there are arab genes in southern italy — or that southern italians share genes in common with north africans/arabs that go farther back than the historic arab settlements in southern italy — so i’m not completely off the mark.)

    Reply

  17. >>> “(and, anyway, both tian, et. al., and dienekes have both suggested that there are arab genes in southern italy — or that southern italians share genes in common with north africans/arabs that go farther back than the historic arab settlements in southern italy — so i’m not completely off the mark.)”

    I guess not completely. But you know, if you look at Dienekes’ project and other studies, you’ll see that Northern and Eastern Europeans have genes in common with each other and with Southern Europeans, and also with West, South and East Asians. There’s nothing unique about Italians in that respect, yet the focus always seems to be on them for some reason. How peculiar.

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  18. @itianthro – “There’s nothing unique about Italians in that respect, yet the focus always seems to be on them for some reason. How peculiar.”

    well, i’ve also written about spain (here and here and in other posts). the reason i brought up italy is because, thanks to the work of cavalli-sforza and others, there’s a ton of data related to consanguinity rates in italy, something in which i am peculiarly particularly interested.

    i don’t think the interest in italy is so peculiar. people are interested because of the remarkable differences between northern and southern italy and are trying to figure out why they exist. out of curiosity, do you have any theory as to why such differences exist? just wondering.

    Reply

  19. “There’s nothing unique about Italians in that respect, yet the focus always seems to be on them for some reason. How peculiar.”

    Italy, and especially Sicily has been a historical crossroads.

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  20. @g.w. – “Italy, and especially Sicily has been a historical crossroads.”

    yes. that’s something else to keep in mind about italy — especially sicily — so many different populations having settled there. doesn’t make for easier relations between people, despite what today’s multiculturalism proponents would have us believe.

    Reply

  21. Late comment, but i just started reading this blog. The apparent deviant lactose malabsorption rate for central Italy might go back to the extensive settlement of Rasenna (Etruscans) in these areas, reaching as far north as Felsina (Bologna)

    Reply

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