The northern Italian, 'Padanian' identity, fostered by the Lega Nord, is rooted in the long-standing tradition, in political and scholarly discourse, of casting regional differences within Italy in terms of a North-South geographic divide. Trying to come to terms, in the late 1980s and 1990s, with Italy's (real or presumed) inadequacies - such as inefficient government, corruption, and organized crime - this imagined geography acquired political centrality in that the North became associated with the virtues of modernity and the South with the vices of un-modernity. It was not only politicians but also social scientists, who fostered and perpetuated this conceptualization of the North-South divide, thus imposing a normative hierarchy between the two parts of the country.
In response to this discourse many scholars, both in Italy and abroad, have started to question this perception of the South as a "backward" and implicitly inferior society. Starting from this critical tradition, Michel Huysseune provides a new, systematic, and interdisciplinary approach that re-interprets the premises behind Italy's imagined geography of modernity. He moves beyond an understanding of the South as a "backward" and implicitly inferior society and problematizes normative notions of modernity, thus offering a new perspective on the North-South divide, which has a significance well beyond the case of Italy.