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La Democrazia diretta: un progetto politico per la societa di giustizia.

Guiseppe Schiavone, ed. La Democrazia diretta: un progetto politico per la societa di giustizia. Bari: Edizioni Dedalo, 1997. iv + 361 pp.

THIS VOLUME OF ESSAYS represents the contributions of sixteen scholars/critics to a conference held at the University of Lecce, 23-25 October 1995, under the auspices of that university's Center for Utopian Studies. "Il modello politico democratico" emergent from the discourse resumed in La Democrazia diretta, as editor Guiseppe Schiavone in his introduction recapitulates the volume's substantial matter and intention, is justly apprehended as "una forma storica dell'utopia" and "un processo sempre in atto," the character of which continues naturally to embody the values "della giustizia, della liberta e dell'eguaglianza," and, even more generally, "dell'emancipazione autenticamente umana della societa globale" (5). As vasty as much a political model and project might understandably seem, though, the express intention of La Democrazia diretta, the thirteenth work in the Edizioni Dedalo series of "L'Utopia. Per una societa giusta e fraterna," bespeaks an alignment with the notion of "utopia," not as an airy, pie-in-the-sky "no-place," but as "eu-topia" ("il buon luogo, le societa buona"): "l'opinione corrente, che dissolve l'utopia nell'irreale e nel fantastico," is repudiated as a matter of philosophical principle founded on political history (7, 6, i). The fact of the continually progressive, revolutionary agency of "il potere di popolo," which power or authority remains only incompletely bodied forth in "la democrazia rappresentativa e parlamentare" of the late twentieth century, is so amply signed across history as to make it as practically real as real can be (9). Imprinted though it is under the mark of "Dedalo," La Democrazia diretta issues from an ideal tempered by an awareness of practical limitations: "La lotta contro la cattiva coscienza e contro l'ideologia prevalente non e facile e non puo pretendere risultati positivi immediati" (16).

Understandably piecemeal, even picaresque, in its construction, the narrative of La Democrazia diretta comes in three parts. The first, and by far the most extensive, is constituted of seven thumbnail sketches suggestive of the historical progress of the authentic democratic ideal, from the period of its inception in ancient Athens (Silvio Cataldi's "Il modello ateniese" and Giovanna Daverio Rocchi's "L'autogoverno nel modello ateniese"), through the Middle Ages (Benedetto Vetere's "I comuni medievali") and subsequent developments during the Enlightenment (Maria Alberta Sarti's "Il modello Corso e l'idea democratica di Rousseau," Adriana Corrado's "William Godwin e l'utopia della democrazia diretta," and Roberto Massari's "Il principio di autogestione nell'800"), to twentieth-century instances of the travails and partial triumphs of the forces for popular self-determination (Branko Tsaratan's "Nel nostro secolo: l'esperienza iugoslava" and Andrea Catone's "La sconfitta delle societa socialiste: un deficit di reale socializzazione"). For all their considerable learning, though, most of the essays in this part have nothing very much new to say. More than half the text of Cataldi's contribution, for example, is taken up with footnotes rehearsing what must now be old hat, altogether conservative, unrevolutionary. Nor does the scanting of Plato and his Republic in the pieces by Cataldi and Rocchi seem less curious, given the "utopian" intention and historicist style of La Democrazia diretta as a whole. Massari's contribution reads very much like a series of encyclopedia articles--on "Robert Owen," "Pierre-Joseph Proudhon," and "Karl Marx." And the conclusion of Tsaratan's survey of the Jugoslavian experience reads as follows: "Il sistema comunista non poteva permettere l'introduzione di una libera privata economia di mercato, la contestazione delle elezioni, un'aperta rappresentanza politica dei gruppi d'interesse.... Come la partecipazione in Occidente, l'autogestione fu una forza anti-burocratica e anti-monopolistica" (183). Sarti's elegant essay on the history of republicanism in Corsica and Rousseau's sense of democracy, on the other hand, is genuinely, newly instructive, linking as it does the infrequently attended to Preface de Narcisse and the Projet de constitution pour la Corse (103).

Part Two, "Democrazia rappresentativa: una forma incompiuta e illusiva," opens with an essay by Giuseppe Schiavone on the contributions and limitations of the kind of democracy initially practised by the English Puritan Long Parliament. In an essay of some fifteen pages, Schiavone defines what democracy means ("la democrazia, il suo senso"), its evolution since the seventeenth century ("la sviluppo storico nell'eta moderna"), "il ruolo della borghesia" in that evolution, and the ways in which participatory, as distinguished from authentic or direct democracy, has evidently failed fully to achieve the ideal of "del vero ben-essere, a tutti i livelli" (216). There is always, of course, the matter of the tyranny of the majority. The second essay, Ronald Creagh's, "Gli infortuni della democrazia," appeals to a Foucauldian sense of "power" as it critiques bourgeois society's failure to achieve "una ucratia" (217). Power necessarily corrupts, Creagh points out, which corruption he finds especially indicated in the resistance of ecclesiastical hierarchies to liberty of spirit. The third essay, by Rene Scherer, revisits Rousseau on the "volonta di tutti" and the "volonta generale" (231): injustices inevitably arise in participatory democracy, since "general" and "all" do not mean the same thing. Gian Paolo Prandstraller's contribution points to the degeneration of democracy attendant on party-style and therefore ideologically hidebound government.

The volume ends with a series of four wide-sweeping reflections on principles deemed pertinent for the future advancement of direct democracy. Arrigo Colombo's "Principi di autogoverno politico" proposes "il comune" as the nucleus of popular self-government (264-65); Cosimo Quarta's "Dal piccolo stato alla cosmopoli democratica" recommends "il federalismo" as a way of overcoming the current "ideologia dell'unita" (307); Bruno Jossa's "Teoria economica ed autogestione" considers the merits of private enterprise, "l'autogestione dell'impressa" (325); and Ferruccio Marzano's "Complementarita di mercato e piano" offers a general review of the history and ideal role of the marketplace in the process and project of moving towards the achievement of global justice.

As the above and unavoidably very partial synopsis of La Democrazia diretta's massive project is intended to suggest, this is not a volume for either specialists or seasoned readers of utopia looking for something new. But the earnest enthusiasm of the moral commitment to which it attests certainly commands admiration. It should also be added that the book is elegantly produced and its text carefully copy-edited.

Camille R. La Bossiere University of Ottawa
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:La Bossiere, Camille R.
Publication:Utopian Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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