Luigi Barzini : The importance of Spectacle

In the time of Luigi, Italy was an impoverished country. The gap between the rich and the poor was large and the economic rift between the classes was there for all to see, so much so that  they had a term for it in Italian  Mezzogiorno,That is the economic divide between the wealthy north and the relatively impoverished south.

One distinguishing factor that differentiated the rich from the poor was the mode of dressing and overall physical appearance. It is this differentiator that Luigi used to coin the phrase “the importance of spectacle,” and according to him, the statement fit the condition of Italy during those times. 

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The meaning of this statement was that looking and acting as having money or rich yet in reality you are not. According to Luigi, acting in this way was a key to the door of social acceptance amongst the higher class by any individual wishing to be associated with or accepted into this social class. Further, he states that such an attitude would create a sense of self delusion amongst an individual as the individual was fooled to believe that wealth and status meant one had power and influence.

Overall, Luigi attributes this to the Italian nature which he writes that “Italians are not individualists.” To the Italian, “the importance of spectacle” means a great deal. To them, the world is a stage where one must always have an audience ; to be alone, to save one’s thoughts only for oneself, this is not Italian. Hence the need for spectacle in an Italians everyday life.


Barzini, Luigi. The Italians. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1964. Print

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