by Giacomo Guarini

Bomba a orologeria (Piemme, 2022) is Daniele Capezzone's latest book dedicated to Italy's delicate socio-political situation, whose deflagrative potential seemed particularly pronounced in the context of contemporary emergencies - health and war first and foremost. The text, which went to press before the general elections last September, would shed light on the "scorching autumn of Italian politics" (as the subtitle reads). In the meantime, the new government is underway and the autumn has passed, but the book's reflections intelligently interrogate the reader on issues that will remain vividly relevant for a long time to come.

Capezzone starts from the agitated days of the end of the Draghi government and, in this regard, one appreciates not only the political insights offered on that crisis scenario, but also in general the incisive reflections on the past government experience, with important critical elements expressed sine ira et studio. This is a happy as well as rare example of discontinuity, if one thinks instead of the hagiographic narratives about the former premier spread among a large part of our political, journalistic and intellectual world, complete with attempts to pick up his legacy by appealing to a phantom Draghi agenda (which many would have wielded in the air like a novel little red book, if only it had ever been drafted).

bomba a orologeria copertina daniele capezzone

The cover

Among the many themes touched upon in the book, the timely critique of the policies perpetrated - first by the Conte II government and then by the Draghi government - in the name of fighting the pandemic is certainly striking, with actions based on mistaken assumptions and arriving at results that are, to say the least, questionable, and indeed tragic, even in comparison with what has happened in other Western-area countries. Attention is thus drawn to the "pandemically corrected" authoritarianism that has made inroads into the lives of individuals and the social fabric and that - without indulging in 'conspiracy theories' - is in danger of consolidating itself as a "version 2. 0 of mild despotism" or a "permanent state of mild exception," to use Lorenzo Castellani's effective expression, recalled in the text along with authoritative scholars such as the jurist Natalino Irti, who for his part warns of the risk that the continuation of the emergency is signaling a real system crisis. Moreover, it is precisely certain media alarms of the very last few days in the sanitary sphere that would dictate that attention be kept high on the issue.

Relevant in this regard are the risks arising from the exercise of a power that overuses the potential of technological-digital development to control and limit people's freedom. Reference is made not only to the experience of the green pass in Italy, but also to singular occurrences at other Western realities such as Canada, where - in an affair that has been far too underestimated in the public debate - the bank accounts and charitable donations of truck drivers involved in peaceful protests against covid restrictions were blocked, with Prime Minister Trudeau not failing to prospect further heavy retaliation toward the people in the streets. On the other hand, the author warns against surveillance tendencies that even disregard the health emergency and can arise even from seemingly innocuous projects (such as certain reward initiatives for virtuous citizens through digital monitoring systems), which risk paving the way for a disturbing social credit system. The author thus notes in general how increasingly intrusive forms of biosurveillance and intolerant treatments of dissent are also looming in the West.

Turning to other topics, the book's 'demythicizing' reflections on issues of international importance and great impact on public finances seem noteworthy. Capezzone recalls, for example, the perplexities already expressed - also by other authors such as Andrea Venanzoni - about the fact that a legal track completely separate from the constitutional architecture has been set up for the implementation of the Recovery Plan, "a kind of fast track with respect to which not only Parliament but even the Council of Ministers is little more than a spectator." And so, looking at the PNRR (National Recovery and Resilience Plan), the author observes that "all this year we have been hearing that a certain thing had to be done to get the PNRR money, and for the next few we will be hearing that a certain other thing will have to be done to return the PNRR money"; not to mention that this borrowing is done by having others dictate the tracks on which to use the resources. Again, sticking to current topics and the subject of renewed debate in recent days, the author addresses the critical issues implicit in the ESM, even in its "reformed" version.

The articulated aggregate of issues recalled in Time Bomb is not only examined in the pars destruens; the Author also puts forward wide-ranging constructive proposals, which prettily combine synthesis, clarity, lucidity and depth of examination. Such qualities make one appreciate a fruitful comparison of ideas in reading the book even by those who - like myself - remain somewhat distant from the Author even in some 'pivotal' theses of the essay.

With regard to the international scene, Capezzone remains intransigently 'hostile' to the Chinese and Russian regimes, and indeed it pains me that his reflections on possible relations with Beijing, Moscow and other important realities of the (Euro-)Asian area do not find some more 'problematized' and less clear-cut nuances. With specific regard to Putin's Russia, the Author obviously does not spare any criticism for the war in Ukraine and nevertheless remains far removed from certain simplistic (when not childish) rhetoric that has characterized the approach to that crisis especially at the conflict's outbreak. And so, even beyond the recalled unfortunate and counterproductive jokes of the political elite (Draghi's choice between peace and a running air conditioner or the "take that, Putin!" to be pronounced when shutting off the hot water according to the EU commissioner), the Author highlights the nature of several of the issues related to the crisis, which in fact often find roots other than and far from the conflict (e.g., energy policies conducted at the national and European level or the inflationary surge that was already looming before the war).

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More in general then, on the country's fully "Atlanticist" positioning, the Author brings reasons in support of the opportunities that Italy could seize from a more 'convinced' strategic partnership with the US, from which greater margins of maneuver of our country in the Mediterranean could derive as a counterpart, in order to regain its position in such a natural geographic context (also in the fundamental challenge related to energy routes), while avoiding being crushed by a European policy hegemonized by German and French interests. Turning then to the specific European framework, the Author emphasizes how Italy could make its voice heard on several important critical issues and indeed also considers the hypothesis of leaving the European Union, but this only as a "plan B," that is, not as a goal to be pursued but only as a possible incident to be prepared for. The consideration is made without wishing to arouse particular scandal, although - the Author notes - we now live by the day on everything and consider it normal not to have a plan B in the pandemic, energy, monetary and other spheres.

Various then are the ideas widely expressed about economic recipes, liberal in approach, often related to lowering taxes (which seems almost - perhaps too confidently? - a palingenetic measure for the Author). As well as some specific proposals such as the one, well detailed and structured in the book, related to the sale of public real estate assets, with the clarification that this is a proposal that does not remotely want to repeat the 'sell-offs' of public assets of the early 1990s.

Then there is the focus on interesting personalities that we can somehow bet on in the evolving international scenarios. These include Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida who has also distinguished himself for a balanced handling of the health emergency centered on a reasonable and successful attempt to live with covid without the adoption of overly drastic initiatives. Or Elon Musk, an interesting and heterodox figure (and perhaps - we note here in passing - also controversial, but for reasons far removed from those normally indicated by the Dem propaganda). Certainly, among other things, his purchase of Twitter has shaken up cards and created curious short circuits, moreover bringing to light - even in recent days - further relevant elements regarding a previous non-transparent management of the social network on issues of particular political weight (such as the ban of Trump's profile, as well as the censorship of compromising news about Biden Jr. or posts at odds with the 'pandemic' narrative).

What emerges, moreover, from the essay is a pars costruens that is not based only on betting in favor of certain prominent personalities of our time and that is based instead on the circulation 'from below' of ideas, and thus of speech and thought, considered fundamental tools for building majorities, or at least for giving dignified representation to minorities. This also by means of journals, online newspapers, small and not so small research centers and think tanks, which can serve as minimum reference points and gathering places for alternative worldviews.

There are many other elements of interest in the book that interrogate with a lucid and never predictable view on current affairs, if one thinks for example of certain shrewd references to the new green and sustainable mantras, as well as the woke phenomenon and the 'iconoclasm' of cancel culture (of which, moreover, the Author himself could be considered a 'victim', having in mind protests and clashes that prevented him from speaking at a conference organized in Sapienza University last October).

In conclusion, the reading of Time Bomb is undoubtedly recommended to those who - even with different views - seek to cultivate a free and fruitful discussion on questions that take on particular relevance and urgency in the current historical moment and that - to stay on the subject - need to be 'defused' as soon as possible, if possible as well thanks to a greater and more widespread awareness of certain issues among civil society.

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A lawyer, graduate in Law ( Third University of Rome) and PhD in Roman Law, Theory of Systems and Private Market Law (Sapienza University of Rome), he is the author of several papers on international law and politics.