Toniolo, Giuseppe

views updated


Professor of economics and a founder of Christian Democracy in Italy; b. Treviso, March 7, 1845; d. Pisa, Oct. 7, 1918. From 1863 to 1867 he studied at the University of Padua and was deeply influenced by the political economist Angelo Messedaglia. In 1878, the year of his marriage to Maria Schiratti, who bore him seven children, he began to teach at the University of Pisa, where he continued until his death. During his early years in this position he did extensive research on the economic theory and practice of medieval Tuscany. This undoubtedly influenced the evolution of his socioeconomic thought. Among his students was Werner Sombart, the German economic historian.

To promote Christian social ideas, Toniolo established the Unione Cattolica per gli studi sociali (1889), the Società Cattolica per gli studi scientifici (1899), and the journal Rivista internazionale di scienze sociali e ausiliarie (1893). Between 1906 and 1909 he headed, at Pius X's request, the Unione Popolare. His reputation as a social thinker rests mainly on La democrazia cristiana; concetti e indirizzi (Rome 1900).

The basic premise of Toniolo's theory is the primacy of ethics in the socioeconomic sphere. According to his teachings, the Christian social order rests upon three sets of social institutions: private, civil, and juridical. The private institutions are man, the family, and private property. The civil institutions are the hierarchical class organizations and the territorial associations. For those in industry and commerce, the class organizations take the form of corporations of arts and crafts; for those in agriculture, there are associations of landed proprietors and of farmers and rural workers. The settlement of the classes in specified territorial zones is the task of the territorial associations, from whence are derived communes and other autonomous entities. The juridical institutions are the State and the Church, two societies that are distinct yet harmonious. The separation of Church and State is an aberration that would do great harm to the public welfare. Christian democracy he defined as "that civil order in which all the social, juridical, and economic forces, in the plenitude of their hierarchical development, cooperate proportionately for the common good and in the last analysis to the advantage of the lower classes" ["Il concetto cristiana della democrazia," Rivista internatzionale di scienze sociali 14 (July 1897) 330].

Although he never admitted his collaboration, Toniolo probably contributed to Leo XIII's rerum novarum (1891). His school of thought had achieved considerable importance in the period immediately preceding the encyclical's appearance. Some of the ideas in the encyclical are very similar to those expressed by Toniolo in works published between 1886 and 1889.

Toniolo lived an exemplary life; the cause for his beatification was introduced in 1951.

Bibliography: Opera omnia, 19 v. (Vatican City 194753). f. vistalli, Giuseppe Toniolo (Rome 1954).

[e. a. carrillo]