Governing the Enterprise: The Transition from Welfare Capitalism to Human Relations in Post-World War Two Italian Business


  • Valerio Varini Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca


Company Welfare; Human Relations; Italy; Welfare Capitalism


Although company welfare has been discussed at great length in international historiography, only in recent years have works been published that analyze its persistence over time. Detailed research has concentrated on the decades following World War Two, which saw the radical modernization of European business culture under the influence of studies made in the USA. In Italy in particular, Human Relations had an impact on the concept of the company and became the subject of a broad debate, whose many participants included members of the government, trade unions, industrialists, and even the country’s leading companies.  I examine how Human Relations was perceived and what it actually signified to the different participants in the debate. This is the first step towards evaluating its real impact on company welfare; it reveals the persistence and further expansion of company welfare, which nevertheless came into conflict with state welfare in the decades following the economic boom in the 1950s and 1960s. The singularity of the Italian situation on the persistence and development of company welfare requires a broad comparison with the international situation, which, in turn, requires study of important Italian cases.