By John A. Davis
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Extra info for Conflict and Control: Law and Order in Nineteenth-Century Italy
But if these administrative reforms meant more effective government, they also marked a further step towards more autocratic government. The often ambiguous character of this transformation was especially evident in the circumstances in which feudal titles and privileges were abolished. By reducing all citizens to the same position of equality in the eyes of the law, the 24 CONFLICT AND CONTROL abolition of feudal privilege served first and foremost to assert the absolute sovereignty of the state and to renounce the political and administrative powers and privileges formerly exercised by lay and ecclesiastical feudatories.
The needs of the 'shame-faced' and the honest poor were acknowledged, but the primary function of welfare administration was to separate the small body of deserving poor from the mass of layabouts, vagrants and ne'er-do-wells, shirkers and charlatans, who were a burden on the public purse and at the same time a hindrance to the development of the economy since they wilfully and wantonly refused to work. Long before the principle of 'less eligibility' was enshrined in the English New Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the Napoleonic Depots de Mendicite had formalised a rigid differentiation in the treatment of the poor.
Capital was withdrawn from manufacturing and banking to be reinvested in land, thereby strengthening the predominantly agrarian character of the peninsula's economies. The process was not uniform, and in the North the Po River continued to provide commercial access to the markets of central and northern Europe for the luxury textile industries of Bologna, the Veneto and Lombardy. But more generally , economic life fell back on itself and the diversification of production that had been evident in the Renaissance period, when Sicily and the Mezzogiorno had exported cereals, for example, to the manufacturing centres of Tuscany and Liguria, gave way to the proliferation of narrower and self-duplicating economic circuits which revolved around satisfying local demand.