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The essay begins with a reappraisal of James Burnham’s 1941 analysis of the managerial revolution and technocracy. It goes on to examine citizens’ growing disaffection with western political systems. In particular, it attempts a philosophical reflection on the modern conception of the state and on the demise of principles of legitimacy over the last two centuries to the point that today they no longer offer a sound justification for state monopoly. In its second part, the essay traces the decline of political obligation to the demands for self-government typical of many western countries, devoting particular attention to the profound political-cultural transformation under way in northern Italy (a change which might be the harbinger of new political upheavals in other countries within the European tradition).