untitled design (1)

Learn Italian online

Brunetta Causes Constitutional Consternation

Renato Brunetta, Italy’s diminutive but dynamic Minister for Meritocracy, let’s call him, has caused something of a stir by saying that the wording of Article One of the Italian constitution is nonsense.  Perhaps Brunetta does have a point.

For many Italians, Italy’s constitution is sacrosanct.  Just about any criticism of this esteemed text raises hackles, so it came as no surprise whatsoever to hear that Brunetta’s observation had evoked Vesuvius-like eruptions.

Renato Brunetta
Renato Brunetta

Brunetta must have known that such a comment would have resulted in howls of derision from various corners of the crooked peninsula, which is possibly why he stated in an interview with Libero news that his view on the wording of Article one is no more than his own personal opinion.

The trouble is that government ministers rarely get themselves off the hook by claiming opinions expressed in public are ‘personal’.

Incidentally,  Brunetta’s observation formed part of his opinion on the introduction of much needed reforms to Italy, and that he considers that changes to Italy’s constitution may increase the effectiveness of such reforms.

However, at the end of the day, the straight talking Mr Brunetta does have a point on the wording of Article One.

Article 1

Here is the section of Article 1 of the Italian Constitution upon which Brunetta commented and caused consternation:

Art. 1
Italy is a democratic Republic founded on labour.

And this is the next line of Article 1, lest it may help:

Sovereignty belongs to the people and is exercised by the people in the forms
and within the limits of the Constitution.

Translation from the Italian Senate: Italian Constitution in English

On the wording of Art. 1, I’m with Brunetta.

Article 1 is Vague

I’ve seen the wording of Article 1 before, but have had problems getting my head round just what exactly it is trying to say, in both Italian and English.

It’s the ‘founded on labour‘ bit which gets me.  Let’s take a look at the whole phrase bit by bit.

Founded‘ can mean ‘established’, and this meaning seems to sit well in this context.  The innocuous ‘on‘ does not really cause too many problems, even if at times prepositions can be fickle.  And so, to the word ‘labour‘.  Problematic, is the word ‘labour’ in English.  On the basis of one definition of ‘labour’, one could, for example, modify the first part of Article 1 to read:

  • Italy is a democratic Republic founded on the physical effort and periodic uterine contractions of childbirth.

However in doing so, one may very well risk being hung for high treason, or some such crime.  Technically, though, there is a lot of truth in the modified sentence -which is the defence I shall use if hauled before an Italian beak.

As you may have realised, looking at the English translation is not of great help.

Labour is not the Same in Italian

think in italian logo dark bg 1

Stop reading, start speaking

Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.

To attempt to understand Article 1, we must have recourse to the meaning of ‘labour’ in Italian, not in English.

‘Labour’ in this context is ‘lavoro’, and the Italian word ‘lavoro’ has the following meanings:

  • impiego di energie per un determinato fine translation the application of energy to a predetermined end
  • il complesso delle attività umane finalizzate a produrre un bene translation the activities which go together in order to produce a good
  • professione mestiere impiego occupazione retribuita translation a profession, trade or job for which payment is received
  • ciò intorno a cui si lavora translation what is around you where you work
  • attività svolte da organi collegiali o gruppi di persone translation activities undertaken by organisations or groups of people

Now maybe it is just me, but none of the above definitions appear to render the meaning of Article One any clearer.  In fact, one can begin to understand just why the practical Minister Renato Brunetta thinks Article 1 does not mean much.

Some in Italy seem to think that in questioning the wording of the Italian constitution, Brunetta is showing contempt for it, but this strikes me as being too harsh a judgement.  Italy is, though, an emotional nation, and is attached to its constitution.

As pointed out at the start of this article, Brunetta made his controversial observation while discussing the sticky subject of reform.  And he did qualify his claim that the wording of Article 1 is odd by stating that the section of Italy’s constitution which refers to values ignores themes and concepts which are fundamental to markets – themes such as competition, and merit.

What Brunetta said is accurate, in that the Italian constitution was quite hastily drawn up after the end of the Second World War and resulted in a document which has been referred to as a ‘constitutional compromise’.  In an interview with Libero-News Brunetta went on the explain that the Italy of today is no longer the same as the Italy which existed at the end of the Second Word War.  This is true.

Reword Article 1

The rewording of Article 1 would perhaps be no bad thing, and could even be seen to act as a harbinger of real and much needed reform in Italy.

Over this storm in a teacup, Brunetta may well have the last laugh and, on this occasion, his critics do appear to have shot from the hip – something which is always difficult to do.  I know, I’ve tried.

Suggestions as to revised wording for Article One of Italy’s constitution received with great interest -in either Italian or English.


Libero News 2nd January 2010 – L’intervista/Brunetta: cambiamo la Carta a partire dall’art.1. L’opposizione: eversivo – Interview/ Brunetta: Let’s Change the Charter starting from Art. 1. Opposition: Subversion.

Wikipedia – The Italian Constitution – Italian version


Definition of Italian word ‘lavoro’ from the Free Dictionary

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Related Posts

Swollen Tiber in Rome

The ‘Tevere’ which is known as the ‘Tiber’ in English is so swollen that Romans are concerned that many of the bridges crossing Rome’s famous river may be damaged or even collapse.

Research in Italy: Hidden Brainpower

Italy seems to have something of an aversion towards research, unless it is absolutely essential, that is. Behind the scenes though, research is being carried out in Italy. I know, I’ve heard about plenty of examples of Italy’s hidden brainpower.