‘Physiology’ of the state: Communication, Politics and Citizenship in post-unified and pre-fascist Italy
Cristiano TURBIL, University College London (UCL), United Kingdom
‘I believe that the speed of communications, obtained with steam and telegraph, has contributed more than all the books, all the newspapers, all the parliaments, laws, and even all religions; to destroy the criminal old order of war among peoples and to create a new moral, sane and sincere.’
With these words, in 1897, the Italian physiologist and politician Paolo Mantegazza was stressing the political importance of science communication. Mantegazza strongly believed that trust in science was the only way forward for creating a new, modern and healthy Italian nation.
This paper will explore the interesting yet complex relationship between the communication of science (and medicine) and its political significance in the construction of the modern state. By drawing on several case studies from the work of doctors, scientists and politicians, this paper will discuss how ‘physiological’ analogies were used to explore the overlap between science and politics at the turn of the twentieth century. Indeed, a new 'physiological’ vocabulary was developed to explain the internal working mechanism of the state to the general public. By adopting a ‘physiological’ language in discussing political matters, Italian scientists like Mantegazza advocated for putting science, its logic and language at the forefront of any political decision.
In conclusion, this research will enable us to investigate how the communication of science was used to forge a sense of national citizenship among Italians in the complex years after the unification of the country.
 P. Mantegazza, L’ Anno 3000: Sogno (Milano, 1897) p. 65.