In 1874 Ferrara published “ Il germanismo economico in Italia ” (Economic Germanism in Italy), followed in 1876 by two other articles: “Gli equivoci del vincolismo: Il Congresso di Milano” (Misunderstandings of protectionism) and “L’italianità della scienza economica: Lettera all’On. Sen. Fedele Lampertico” (The Italian Features of Economics: Letter to Senator Fedele Lampertico). These three articles marked the birth of the idea of an Italian historical school of economics and the birth of a distorted debate about the German Historical School (GHS). Harsh debates and ferocious criticisms occurred. Messedaglia, Lampertico, Cossa, Rabbeno and others were considered representatives of this new school of economics; Ferrara, Pantaleoni and Pareto became standard-bearers of a norest struggle against the historicist degeneration of economics. Nobody wondered whether such a school really existed in Italy, or what its features and its purposes were. The existence of the Italian historical school of economics was accepted, and it was accepted that it was characterized by an antitheoretical attitude in the scientiﬁc ﬁeld and by an antiliberal perspective in the political vision. So scientiﬁc tradition persisted in the idea of a harsh contrast in Italy between two economic schools: between a theoretical school (Ferrara, Pantaleoni, Pareto) and an antitheoretical school (Messedaglia, Lampertico, Cossa), and between a liberal school and an antiliberal school. Nevertheless, if we try to overcome the impression created by Ferrara’s work and by the radical criticisms of Pantaleoni, Pareto and others, if we do not accept immediately the interpretation they suggest about the evolution of Italian economic thought and if we make a systematic analysis of the works of the Italian economists considered representatives of the historical school or, even, Kathedersozialisten, we can observe a different reality. In particular, we do not ﬁ nd any scientiﬁc production proving explicit support for the scientiﬁc program of the GHS. Strictly speaking, it is therefore very difﬁcult to talk about the existence of a historical school of economics in Italy. A s we will show, the Italian historical school of economics was a Ferrarian invention caused by political reasons (linked to the organization of the Italian State following political uniﬁcation), but the uncritical acceptance of Ferrara’s view produced serious interpretative distortions. As a result, there are still no acceptable explanations in the scientiﬁc reconstruction of the evolution of economics in Italy after 1870. In particular, we need more thorough inquiries into these aspects: The reasons for the strong inﬂuence in Italy of the GHS of economics; • The reasons for the harsh controversies that occurred, linked to such inﬂuences; • A rigorous analysis of the limits of Ferrara’s work trying to show the existence of an Italian historical school of economics. A s we will see, the analysis of the ideological barriers built up during the harsh debates of this period explains the difﬁcult reception of the GHS authors not only at the end of nineteenth century but also in the following century. Scientiﬁc interest in some representatives of the GHS (above all, Max Weber and Sombart) increased in Italy after World War II (Pisanelli 2015: 166ff.), and in the last decade of the twentieth century, Schmoller and the general experience of the GHS underwent a thorough reconsideration (Gioia 1990; Schiera & Tenbruck 1989).
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