The coining of social capital.
The «questione meridionale» after «meridionalism»
This paper argues that the representation of the Italian Mezzogiorno conveyed by the debate on its economic backwardness is overtly unfaithful due to a series of reasons. Several positive aspects like the recent success in the fight against the Mafia, are systematically neglected. At a more analytical level the influence of the works by Putnam and Banfield on the lack of civicness and amoral familism have exerted a deep influence on the common sense view that the problems originate from the culture of the Mezzoigiorno and from the lack of a positive social attitude. The weakness of these two works and of the methodology on which they are based is highlighted. More in general, the concept of social capital is put under scrutiny and its limitations as well as its inadequacies in the interpretation of the Mezzogiorno are brought to the surface. An analysis which takes into account both positive and negative features in order to gain a better knowledge of the Mezzogiorno is strongly advocated.