Wednesday, November 04, 2009

European Paternalism

The easy thing is to find that the lives of young adults are different between, say, Italy and some Scandinavian country: it is obviously different living with the mamma till one is forty two and getting away from parents’ home at the age of eighteen. It is very easy to realize and state this.


But what is clever, interesting and intelligent is to recognize what the two models of life have in common: paternalism. In Italy, people enjoy the paternalism proper, that is, the paternalism of parents, while in, say, Denmark, young adults leave home at an early age just to start benefiting from the paternalism of the State, of the utterly rich-social democratic-very much paternalistic-Scandinavian welfare State.


Of course, these paternalisms are different and these differences have consequences. But, essentially, how much different are these models of life? In country A, say Denmark, one brags about her/his independence and autonomy – while at the same time owing a huge amount of crowns to the State which lends generously to students. In country B, say Italy, people simply don’t brag about getting her/his studies paid by the parents. In both cases, the young university student from Copenhagen and the one from Milan are financially dependent of some pater (either the parent or the State).


The paternalisms are different, but can one really say that young adults in the “Scandinavian model” are so much more independent than Italians?


Whether getting security from parents or from the State, most European models of life at the young adult ages are characterized by some sort of paternalism. And realizing this paternalism is fundamental to weigh the claims of life autonomy of young Scandinavians and to reject accusations of lack of independence from parents of young Italians.



[There is of course other European models: in some countries, young adults leave the protection of parents to join some socio-professional group, which offers continuation to paternalism proper].

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