Research concerning the development of Southern Italy is often policy oriented. By referring to Max Weber, the author asserts that this is not necessarily a weakness, provided that such an orientation is transparent (in the sense that there is an explicit comparison between various policy options) and conditional (in the sense that the analyst does not question the ends, but rather explores the appropriateness of the means). Some recent contributions tend to overlook that a Mezzogiorno syndrome is still present. The author mentions two features of such a syndrome: weak legality and dependence. Weak legality refers to the unreliability of public rules and institutions, which hinders development because it distorts medium term economic calculations. Dependence refers to the pervasiveness of the public sector and to the fact that in Southern Italy very often the life chances of social and economic actors depend on the political elite and civil servants. According to the author, in such a context local agents can seldom be the crucial forces of growth. Therefore, an exogenous leverage of socioeconomic change looks more promising.