Trusting aggression: the Siennese war machine as social capital

Crociani-Windland, L. (2005) Trusting aggression: the Siennese war machine as social capital. In: Watson , S. and Moran , A., eds. (2005) Trust, Risk and Uncertainty. London: Palgrave. ISBN 9781403906991 Available from:

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This chapter examines the unique civic structure of Siena, in the central Italian region of Tuscany. This structure evolved over centuries in connection to the horse race known as the Palio. The city is divided into seventeen ‘contrade’ or wards, which function as independent city-states within the city. Each has its own administration and officials, territorial boundaries, social activities and rituals such as baptisms, wedding and funerals. Their existence is inextricably linked to the Palio race. The extraordinary endurance of this system, whose origins can be traced back to the 12th century and whose present form has changed little since 1729, merits wider sociological consideration. The focus of research for this chapter is the link between affective dynamics and the development of the present structure as a pivotal source of social capital. The study focuses on the relationship between affective dynamics and normative structures in their historical development using Deleuzian models to elucidate these dynamics. The ability of the system to adapt is also explored, as this is seen as a major contributor to its stability. The overall picture is that of a community that has achieved a balance between being and becoming, where identity and intensity can coexist. Social cohesion and social capital is enhanced, while aggression is contained without resorting to repression. The Palio is not just the race, but a way of life, in the words of the Siennese “Nel Palio ci sta sempre tutto” (“everything can always be contained in the Palio”). Siena’s reality is inextricably linked to the Palio. Being at the race, of course, is the best way to appreciate its affective charge and vitality. However, for those unable to be there, the following account of the August 2000 race may go some way towards getting them acquainted with this extraordinary mixture of custom and event, rituality and affective impact, aggression and containment. Further information and historical analysis follow this section, so that the complexity and intensity of the Palio, may be understood in relation to the city’s present structure, its history and identity. The political and civic culture that have evolved around the Palio have fostered a high level of social participation and cohesion. This can clearly be viewed in terms of social capital generated by, and of great benefit to, the Siennese population.

Item Type:Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords:aggression, affect, social capital, festivals, Palio war, state machine
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences > Department of Health and Social Sciences
ID Code:12188
Deposited By: Dr L. Crociani-Windland
Deposited On:06 Jan 2011 13:46
Last Modified:15 Nov 2016 23:41

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