G. Bolacchi, Una Comunità del Mezzogiorno (analisi del testo di Banfield), Il Bogino, n. 5 (maggio-giugno), 1961

Many studies on underdevelopment are available, although a coherent theoretical systematization of this matter has not yet been achieved. Unquestionably, attempts at characterizing the phenomenon on a more appropriate theoretical level by identifying social structures with a high degree of generality should be particularly welcome and generate a great deal of interest. In light of these premises, we should evaluate the work of Edward C. Banfield, published in the United States in 1958 under the title “The moral basis of a backward society.”

Unlike the analytical and descriptive studies abounding in modern sociological literature, the method adopted by Banfield entails a theoretical schema pre-existing to empirical investigation. In short, he highlights the undervaluing of cultural, psychological, and moral conditions of a social group, i.e., the group “culture” at large. Instead, the latter influences the group’s capacity and degree of organization, on which a community’s economic, social and political progress depends. Banfield explains the extreme poverty and backwardness by referring to the inhabitants’ inability to act for any purpose that transcends the immediate material interest of the family unit by identifying a particular type of culture, namely the ethos of that phenomenon he calls “amoral familism.”

This article analyzes the theoretical schema through a reformulation of the fundamental points on which the American scholar’s hypothesis rests. Some criticisms are also advanced, which in no way diminish the scientific endeavor and usefulness of Benfield’s study, which is a crucial step in the analysis of underdevelopment.

(Una Comunità del Mezzogiorno [A community from the Southern Italy], cf. pp. 82-84)
Giulio Bolacchi


Una Comunità del Mezzogiorno
[A community from the Southern Italy]

Published in
Il Bogino, n. 5 (maggio-giugno), pp. 82-88

Società Editoriale Italiana, Cagliari


Edward C. Benfield, Una comunità del Mezzogiorno, Il Mulino, 1961