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Building an Industrial Society: Welfare Capitalism in the “City of Factories”. Sesto San Giovanni, Italy


  • Valerio Varini


The article retraces the steps which marked the transformation of Sesto San Giovanni from a small agricultural centre in the vicinity of a great city such as Milan, to becoming one of the principal centres of Italian industry. Two preliminary questions, of notable importance, have been dealt with the definition of company town, as so considered by the most authorative historiography. Following that there is a brief résumé of the diffusion of the company towns in Italy. The two premises serve to better comprehend the case of Sesto San Giovanni. Its uniqueness lies, however, in being the outcome of action by a plurality of businesses which contributed to building the ‘factory city’. From 1905, their choice of setting up their plants caused a sudden increase in the population, which was followed by an equally sharp increase in the demand for lodgings and social infrastructures. In the face of this necessity, the employers were forced to invest in building, at first with the intention of rapidly housing the workers and, then to proceed with a more rational planning of specific villages for the workforce. In the decades between the Wars, Sesto San Giovanni was provided with a wide range of services in the fields of health care, schooling and even leisure. These policies permitted the creation of solid, close-knit company communities, founded on the intense participation of the workforce in the functioning of the production activity. The social network, however, held together principally on the basis of the recognition of mutual obligations and responsibilities, rather than one mere subordination to a paternalistic domination.

Suggested Citation

  • Valerio Varini, 2015. "Building an Industrial Society: Welfare Capitalism in the “City of Factories”. Sesto San Giovanni, Italy," Working Papers 302, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:302

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    More about this item


    Economic History; Company Town; Enterpreneur; Welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N94 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: 1913-
    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out

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