Exile and Creativity: Franco Modigliani
As part of the Exile and Creativity series organized in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, Renato Camurri will discuss the work of the Nobel Laureate economist, Franco
As part of the Exile and Creativity series organized in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in New York, Renato Camurri will discuss the work of the Nobel Laureate economist, Franco Modigliani.
“My mother and Fräulein Pabst had taught me a little German, and I was asked to translate some articles from German into Italian by the Traders’ Federation. In this way I made acquaintance with the economic problems dealt with in German publications: In those days, price control was the fashionable topic.
In Italy at the time, interuniversity written competitive examinations— the Littoriali della Cultura—were under way. These competitions comprised a variety of scientific, literary, and artistic subjects—including economics, which was actually somewhat neglected in the universities. Though the competitions were organized by the regime, the cream of antifascist youth took part in them and scored very highly. That year’s economic subject was the price controls that had been imposed in Italy in 1935… After translating at least a score or so of articles on the matter, I felt sufficiently expert to enter the competition… To my astonishment, my essay scored the highest. The examiners intimated that I evidently had a certain bent toward economics. And I said to myself: Why not? From that moment, I began to think of myself as a potential economist. All this took place in 1936… In actual fact, what was taught was the theory and institutions of the so-called “Corporative State,” which had nothing to do with modern economic theory… I was awarded the Diploma di Littore at Palazzo Venezia by Mussolini in person, who shook my hand and presented me with a little gold badge with “M” for Mussolini that I still preserve (out of historical significance, not love). … The competition entailed, immediately afterward, a trip to Palermo, where the winners were to meet, they being ex officio the secretaries of the commission for the following year.
Franco Modigliani (June 18, 1918 – September 25, 2003) was a professor at UIUC, Carnegie Mellon University, and MIT.
Following the proclamation of the racial laws in Italy, in 1938, Modigliani left Italy for Paris together with his future wife, Serena Calabi and her parents. After briefly returning to Rome to discuss his doctoral thesis at the La Sapienza University on 22 July 1939, he returned to Paris. The same year, the entire family moved to the United States and Modigliani enrolled at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. His thesis, a ground-breaking elaboration and extension of John Hicks’s IS–LM model, was written under the supervision of Jacob Marschak and Abba Lerner in 1944.
From 1942 to 1944, Modigliani taught at Columbia University and Bard College as an instructor in economics and statistics. In 1946, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1948, he joined the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign faculty. From 1952 to 1962, he was a member of the Carnegie Mellon University faculty. In 1962, he joined the faculty of MIT, as an Institute Professor. In October 1985, Modigliani was awarded that year’s Nobel Prize in Economics “for his pioneering analyses of saving and of financial markets.”
Renato Camurri is professor of History of contemporary Europe at the University of Verona. In recent years his research is directed toward the study of the phenomenon of exile and of cultural migration from Europe to the United States in the period between the two world wars. He has been a visiting fellow at various American scientific and academic Institutions, including Harvard University. Among his most recent works dedicated to this area of research noteworthy are the volume Franco Modigliani. Italy seen from America. Reflections and battles of an exile (Bollati Boringhieri, 2010), the booklet 5 of “Journal of modern Italian Studies”, 2010, Mussolini’s Gifts. Exiles from Fascist Italy, of which he was the curator and author. He has also curated the volume Max Ascoli. Anti-fascist, intellectual, journalist (Franco Angeli, 2012) and the American letters (1927-1949) of Gaetano Salvemini (Donzelli, 2015). He is among the founders and coordinators of the annual Gaetano Salvemini Colloquium in Italian history and culture, at Harvard University. He founded and is in charge of the book series, Italiani dall’Esilio, published by Donzelli
Federico Rampini has been the chief correspondent from New York City for one of Italy’s major national newspapers, La Repubblica, since 2009, after a five-year stint in Beijing, where he had been dispatched to open La Repubblica’s China bureau. Prior to that, from 2000 to 2004, he lived in San Francisco, where he covered the first Internet revolution, the so-called New Economy. Born in Genoa, Rampini moved to Bruxelles with his family at the age of two. He returned to Italy in his late teens, and started a prolific journalistic career, which would eventually take him around the world, covering important international events. In his role as a correspondent from the U.S., he has covered several presidential elections and has followed U.S. presidents on their trips abroad, as a reporter accredited for the White House.