This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, namely to re-imagine the cultural world of social rebels or sovversivi—their milieu, beliefs, and artistic expressions. It traces the history of their movement and their activities, and analyzes the institutions and cultural forms they developed: the press, literature, poetry, theater, and iconography. In recovering the sovversivi's culture, the book underscores the important role of literature and art as forms of both self-expression and propaganda and, more generally, the centrality of culture and the intellectual vanguard in the formation and development of radical ideologies. The sovversivi are a perfect example of so-called “organic” intellectuals. They fulfilled a crucial role as “constructors,” “organizers,” and “permanent persuaders” of their community. They provided crucial leadership among their co-nationals; mediated between the Old and the New World, and, above all, articulated through various cultural apparatuses the feelings, experiences, and hopes of Italian workers in America. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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