bargaining counter, and has led to the growth of new patron-client systems, altering established patterns of power and influence. All these changes taken together have made possible a much more complicated shifting structure, a more open network of social relationships. This new social structure, with many new state-imposed institutions, should bring with it also, one might argue, the morality of impartiality.
In fact, people's values, or role expectations, or if you like culture, are still largely based on personal morality. Ottiero Ottieri, a northerner employed as personnel officer at the Olivetti factory near Naples gives us an example (Ottieri, 1959). Applicants for jobs did not argue from their qualifications, from their suitability according to impersonal criteria, but from the intensity of their private misery, seeking to establish a personal relationship at least of compassion, so that the official stranger could no longer refuse what it seemed so obviously his to confer at will.
My own experience of this society coincides completely If anyone has or thinks he has a lien of any kind on someone in a position to grant him a favour, he considers it his natural moral right to use this lien. In fact, many would consider it pointless to attempt to apply the formal rules of the bureaucracy, even if they know them, without such a lien. People who fail to get what they want are more likely to complain of the ineffectiveness or lowliness of their friends than of the partiality of the system.
The Italian bureaucracy is ubiquitous. Whatever one wants to do, to build a house, to sell vegetables, to buy a car, to plant olives,one is bound either to need to pay a tax, to obtain permission, or else one is entitled to a (( contribution )). To know someone on the inside who can advise, expedite, and circumvent any deficiencies in one's application is an advantage, and it is not surprising that many people think it indispensable. For other purposes,finding a job or passing an examination,many examinations in Italy are oral,the advantages of personal contact are even clearer.
Obviously, most people do not have contacts in all the right places, nor the knowledge and power to establish them when needed. They therefore seek support from persons of sufficient importance to obtain what they want, that is they work through raccomandazione. Raccomandazione is perfectly decent and normal. However, when employed by others it tends to be classed as imbroglio, intrigue or corruption, literally entanglement, which is immoral. People see all social events in these terms, and the suspicion of favouritism or horse dealing is seldom absent.
The resulting way of thinking has some striking parallels with the working witchcraft
beliefs in witchcraft-believing societies. In the first place the reasoning tends to be ex
post facto. People will obviously conceal imbroglio, and therefore direct evidence is
unlikely to be forthcoming. But if a man achieves power and material wealth then
people will automatically assume imbroglio,at least the influence of a powerful
protector. Even the farming successes of some of the assignees of the Land Reform
Board are accounted for by less successful neighbours in terms of official favouritism.
Conversely, personal failures or misfortunes are attributed to lack of influential friends, to official hard heartedness, or to the immoral if not malicious imbroglio of successful rivals. Plainly this is substantially different from the attribution in a witchcraft system of misfortunes to neighbourly malice, but it does have one analogous effect. It serves to convert many events which in fact are technical or fortuitous,bureaucratic errors, bad luck in the allocation of plots of land, inefficiency leading to crop failures, low market prices, failure to get a job, into social events, due directly to the unseen hand of favouritism, or indirectly, to its absence.
One corollary of this way of thinking is the depreciation of the part played by personal worth and personal qualifications in the social system, the reverse of the protestant ethic. People do not see success as the reward of hard work, thrift and a wise use of one's talents, and it follows that they do not think of (( getting on )) by these means. The way to success is by acquiring efficient protectors, by raccomandazione, or imbroglio. If one fails, it is not oneself, but the system which is to blame for leaving one out.
If there are some interesting parallels, there is one vast difference between witchcraft systems and imbroglio. Witchcraft is illusory; imbroglio certainly is not. But although some imbroglio really goes on, the amount of favouritism, intrigue and bribery is far less than the accusations and universal suspicions would lead one to believe. Indeed, since accusations are so often made (though not of course always) en post facto and without specific evidence, they must be overestimated.
Nor is it true, as is often said and believed, that nothing in this society can be done without raccomandazione. Competent students pass examinations, people entitled draw social service benefits, peasants obtain state grants to build their farm houses, and so forth, with no special interventions. Nevertheless, it is true that many who would have succeeded in their purposes without it use raccomandazione, and assume they are beholden to their patron for something they would have obtained anyway. It is also true that some who are not entitled by the formal rules, or are not worthy by objective criteria, succeed by raccomandazione in obtaining benefits or qualifications, while others who are objectively entitled or worthy fail either because of technical errors, or administrative indifference, or ignorance of their rights, or from the conviction that without a powerful protector it is useless to try.
People in a position to grant favours or perform services are likely to receive a constant
stream of requests. Refusal is often difficult. In some cases it is pointless. A doctor had
to send off a form on behalf of a patient, a simple unquestioned duty. That evening
he received telephone calls, on behalf of the patient, from the Communists, the
Democratic Christians, and the priest. The patient undoubtedly congratulated himself on the
political skill by which he achieved his object, attributing nothing to the doctor's professional reliability.
Plainly, in practice, requests, both those made direct to officials and those via raccomandazione, must often be refused. tout what has struck me is the frequency with which they are accepted, and moreover, the ease with which persistence in face of initial refusal is rewarded. This is no more than a personal impression, and to quantify or give precise meaning would be possible only if one knew all the secret goings on, and were able to estimate accurately when an apparent acceptance was in fact a covert refusal. But if I cannot quantify, I can at least give reasons for what I believe is the difficulty in refusing.
As Mauss (3) pointed out, to give is obligatory, and to refuse a request is to declare war. The more closed the community, the more serious the consequences of refusal. Moreover, a request for help is a chance to demonstrate one's power; often in specific cases, a connection between publicity and compliance is obvious. An Arab chief asked for his protection cannot refuse. An Italian official asked for his, can and sometimes must; but how much more pleasant and flattering if he can manage to appear magnanimous. Thirdly, political considerations are seldom far away. Most people in a position to grant favours are attached to the government politically, or alternatively, and less often, to communist controlled comuni. To refuse favours is to risk losing votes at the next general or local election, and why refuse? Who knows who may be offended by a refusal?
A system of imbroglio once established is self perpetuating. The accepted diagnosis for all real and imagined shortcomings of government or bureaucratic action is imbroglio; the explanation of one's own failures is either imbroglio by rivals or the failure of one's own raccomandazione. The universal acceptance of this diagnosis produces the conditions which it asserts to exist, for if I am sure everyone else is doing it, why should I refuse?
The system is self perpetuating in another and more serious way. Imbroglio makes for
inefficiency, and this in turn opens the door to further imbroglio. First, administration
depends largely on good record keeping, so that decisions can always be made on the
fullest possible information, and in the light of previous similar decisions, in order to
preserve consistency and learn from past errors. The more decisions are made on ad
hoc or personal grounds irrelevant to the impersonal criteria laid down or implied in the
rules of the administrative system, the less anyone wants full, careful and accurate
records kept. In practice, official records and documents in the South are frequently
partial, and inaccurate, and to discover why things are done, it is often necessary to
ask, knowing that one will not be told the full story.
Secondly, no official can base his conduct simply on a set of clear instructions, because he never knows when he will have to take unexpected and formally irrelevant personal consideration into account. Since this is accepted at all levels, juniors are afraid to take decisions in case of complications, peasants and workers need someone to help them with this process, which is known by a special untranslatable wordla pratica. People set up offices which advertise that they undertake all forms of pratica, naturally not for nothing (4). Kinsmen or neighbours with education are always useful. Trade union officials must be experts in the complexities of the deductions permissible and the rights obtained under the various insurance schemes, and moreover need to have good personal relations with the appropriate officials.
All bureaucratic procedures are designed to assemble and check the necessary information for making decisions, to provide for impartiality, and to ensure that fully adequate records are kept. But once a procedure has become established, it becomes magic also for the bureaucracy. Juniors know only that it must happen this way. Decisions are made or expedited by extraneous pressures, but the correct documents must exist sooner or later. In a case, on which I have detailsand there must be dozens like it an application, formally unacceptable, was granted from personal knowledge and for personal reasons, and the orders to collect the necessary documents followed. The documents and records even for many officials are not therefore instruments for ensuring impartiality and efficiency, but arbitrary, if necessary, conditions of certain kinds of action. No wonder official records are often inaccurate, incomplete or out of date.
My argument so far has been as follows. The system I have called personal morality is extremely strong in societies composed of relatively closed communities. When a society of this kind forms part of a larger political unit, which in theory pursues its purposes according to impersonal, impartial and efficient procedures, the bureaucracy must in practice adapt itself to the pressures of personal morality in the society which it is attempting to administer, permitting favouritism, ad hoc decisions, departures from and stretchings of the regulations, with consequential inefficiency and indifference to the purposes of the bureaucratic institutions, which become systems of linked positions of privilege and power.
Most pre-industrial States were concerned primarily with two objects the
maintenance of public order, including the maintenance of the power of the rulers, and
the collections of taxes. Besides these, they had to maintain a judicial system for the
peaceful settlement of disputes and the prevention of public defiance of rules laid down
by the State or imposed by public moral values, and a number of public services
communications, the regulation of economic life, and more recently public health and