In Italy the link between citizenship and national identity is relatively weak. Historically, nation-building has been hampered by its simultaneity with other macropolitical processes: state construction, economic modernization and the consequent restructuring of class cleavages, the secularization of state authority, the transition to mass politics, and enduring regional disparities. After the collapse of Fascism during World War II, the Republican polity was founded not on national identity but on cosmopolitan values and on the integrative capacity of political parties. The partisan mediation of the practice of citizenship has allowed the consolidation of democracy in Italy under conditions of ideological polarization. However, the rights and duties actually enjoyed or performed by citizens are the result of a continuous bargaining process among parties and interest groups rather than of a distinctive and pervasive conception of citizenship. In combination with a relatively weak sense of ethnic identity, this circumstance makes Italians well prepared for participating in a political system based on negotiation and 'thin' loyalties like the European Union
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