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2. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to the Decline of the Catholic Church in Early Modern Italy


The aim of this paper is to investigate the decline of an institution—the Catholic Church in Early Modern age—by applying a model introduced by the political economist Albert O. Hirschman. In his most famous book (1970) Hirschman proposed a tripartite division in order to describe the reactions of consumers and citizens to the deterioration of companies, political organizations and States: exit, voice and loyalty. This model was born out of the author’s desire to convince economists of the importance and usefulness of a political concept such as ‘protest versus exit’, but even more interesting is the interplay among the three options, which has proved useful to analyze very different contexts. In fact, Hirschman’s classification could be fit as well to Early Modern Europe, when Western christians began to develop responses to deal with the crisis of the Roman Church, either deciding to remain loyal to their religious institution, or raising a protest about specific issues, or even joining one of the new born Protestant Churches or radical cults. In the following pages the model is applied to find a new approach to explain an old issue: the failure of a proper Protestant Reformation in Early Modern Italy. As Hirschman has suggested in more recent studies, loyalty, exit, and voice might be not mutually exclusive: in 16th-century Italy, Nicodemism (as a doctrinal position combining all three elements), played a major role in keeping many of the faithful from choosing solely either exit or voice.

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ISSN 2280-8574. Published by GISI - UniTO. Hosted by Reg. Trib. Torino n. 9, 24-01-2011. Direttore responsabile: Simone Mammola. Contact: The JIHI editors. Book reviews contact: Simone Mammola.

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