This article discusses the attitude of Italy’s different political cultures towards mass consumption between the so-called "economic miracle" and the 1980s. Critical theories of the consumer society were the background of a more general distrust against the social consequences of increasing private consumption. Italy’s ruling class developed a pedagogical attitude towards mass consumer behaviours, which were considered, in general, a waste of resources because they tended to pursue ephemeral satisfactions induced by commercial promotion. These ideas were widespread in particular among Italy’s Left-wing parties. The Catholic ruling class, instead, had a more articulated vision of consumer society. As a matter of fact, the economic miracle had been fundamental to the political legitimisation of the governments led by the Christian Democracy. In the 1970s, the economic crisis caused a rethinking of the pattern of development in advanced industrial countries. It was in this context that Enrico Berlinguer proposed austerity as the basic principle for the future of Western economies, a political perspective that turned to be the opposite of the Socialist Party’s. In the 1980s, in fact, Italian Socialists promoted a vision of modernity based on private consumption as the engine of social progress and individual realisation.
Keywords: Consumptions, economic miracle, austerity, Italian communist party, Italian socialist party, Christian Democracy