There are other reasons for the racism: the legacy of fascism and the continuing adulation of Benito Mussolini; the tangible insecurity, even sense of inferiority, of many Italians; widespread economic misery for at least the last decade; and a political class that is absurdly ignorant. But perhaps the most interesting explanation for racism comes from an Italian mate of mine who's an armchair anthropologist.

I know that notions like racism do not take a definite article unless that notion is well referred to in a context. Then why is the first occurrence of racism in this fragment preceded by the, and the second one is not? If, on the one hand, the first occurrence of racism is about the racism in Italy, the second one seems to me to be about the racism in Italy, as well. On the other hand, if racism was used notionally, then both occurrences of the word should have been preceded by no the. Either way, racism in this fragment, whether it is about racism in general or the racism in Italy, should have been used uniformly. So my question is: why wasn't it?

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    The first occurrence of racism is clearly talking about racism in Italy, and thus needs a "the". For the second occurrence, if the explanation can also applied to some non-Italian, you don't need a "the". – Peter Shor Jan 20 '14 at 17:24
  • I think the second reference to racism is more an example of general racism rather than an example of Italian racism. – Satwik Pasani Jan 20 '14 at 17:27
  • Please read the news , it clearly is an example of Italian racism ! I read the whole article. – Argot Jan 20 '14 at 17:33
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    My vote is that the second instance is missing the "the" and that this is a simple mistake, or slip-up. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jan 20 '14 at 17:46
  • -1 Never ask what the definite article refers back to without the preceding narration in context, as that is what the definite article is about. The racism isn't restricted to right or left, old or young, rural or urban: it is noticeable everywhere. This is the first instance and its antecedents are the first two paragraphs (that immediately precede it). – Kris Jan 21 '14 at 11:47

The use of the definite article the here indicates that the thing in question (racism) has been defined and scoped previously. In this case, the headline of the article is "Why is Italy still so racist?", and the first paragraph of the article contains examples of racist behavior in Italy. When the second paragraph says "[t]he racism isn't restricted to right or left," therefore, it should be understood as referring specifically to racism in Italy, the subject of the article, rather than to racism as a general phenomenon. Other uses of "the racism" throughout the article, such as the one you mention, serve a similar function.

To look at it another way, consider the difference between

The Smiths own two Toyotas, but Mr. Smith says he doesn't care for the cars.


The Smiths own two Toyotas, but Mr. Smith says he doesn't care for cars.

One is specific, the other is unspecific.

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  • I see light now but exams confounds your brain sometimes... – Argot Jan 22 '14 at 17:04

I would guess that particular instances or types of racism in Italy have already been mentioned prior to the beginning of the excerpt - is this correct? If so, it is this racism that is being addressed with "the racism". Later, the writer is referring to racism in general (but still in Italy), not just the particular type/instances of racism referred to previously.

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In the first case, "the" has been used to indicate to the (high)magnitude of racism in Italy (to emphasise the gravity of "racism" in Italy). In the second case, there is no need to reiterate the same idea again (once the idea of the magnitude of racism is conveyed to readers, it is implied that racism refers to "the racism" only-if the editors start becoming pedantic (fuss over perfection) news won't be able to reach us on time). I am in no way insinuating that racism has been wrongly used. Both the cases refers to racism in Italy. "The" is used like an adjective in the first case like "The great Gatsby". "The" distinguishes racism in Italy from racism in other parts of the world and suggests it has superior form of racism than rest of the world.

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