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date: 06 May 2021

Italian Social Psychologies and Fascist Regimes: History of a Collective Removallocked

  • Gilda SensalesGilda SensalesSapienza University of Rome, Department of Psychology of Developmental and Socialization Processes

Summary

The first Italian social psychologies showed a pluralism of perspectives that disappeared in the subsequent development of the discipline. With the presence of a collective sociological psychology (SP), a philosophical SP, and a psychological SP rooted in the sociocentric dimension, the field appeared variously articulated with a negotiation and a dialogue between different disciplinary approaches for the construction of its identity. This dialogue was destined to be swept away, first, during the fascist period, and then in 1954, with the affirmation of a psychological and experimental SP, sanctioned by the first National Congress of SP. However, in Italy, unlike in the United States, SP maintained strong social roots. These roots had already been evident from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, when three central topics for SP were emerging in Europe: crowd psychology, psychology of public opinion, and race psychology. Each of these topics played a particular role under the totalitarian regimes. In Italy, Antonio Miotto and Paolo Orano were the scholars who dealt with these three themes, developing them to different degrees of involvement with the fascist regime. Antonio Miotto remained relatively autonomous from the political lines dictated by fascism. Thus, he articulated an original positive conception of the crowd, contrasting the vision of passive masses to maneuver in ways typical of fascism. He did not express himself in favor of or against the censorship of the media and the control of public opinion, and only after fascism took hold did he reflect on the role of political propaganda, analyzing examples from totalitarian regimes. He avoided taking strong and clear positions on the theme of race, although a few of his statements on the subject were completely in line with the regime’s racist ideology. Orano, by contrast, had a marginal interest in crowds, sharing the negative prejudice typical of the conservative crowd psychology. However, Orano had a great deal to say on the role of public opinion. His thoughts developed along the lines of fascist totalitarian policy. He was one of the protagonists of this field, and in 1938 he founded the first Italian center of study of public opinion (Demodoxalogy Center). He created the center with the aim of knowing public opinion, guiding it, and controlling it. With respect to the theme of race, Orano was also completely involved in the fascist racist ideology, devoting considerable energy and framing his original contribution according to the historiographic point of view defined as “national racism.” Yet the development of SP that occurred after World War II showed no traces of these different forms of social psychologies and their role during the fascist regime. Postwar Italian social psychology completely removed the contribution of these two psychologists. Only recently has the prewar social psychology begun to be analyzed by a critical history centered on both disciplinary and sociocultural contexts.

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