This article attempts to re‐consider the debate that has recently developed around the so‐called New Regionalism with reference to the studies regarding the emergence of a ‘new’ competitive Mezzogiorno of Italy. The first two sections of the article are devoted to a critical analysis of the literature on the New Mezzogiorno. It is argued that this literature has, on the one hand, fruitfully called attention to the emerging experiences of regional development in the South of Italy; yet, on the other hand, in throwing positive light on local economic development in the South of Italy, it has underestimated the more troublesome phenomena that these experiences reveal, especially from the point of view of capital‐labour relations. The third section of the article is devoted to showing how the limits and contradictions of the new regionalist approach to local development are reflected in the new course of regional policy that has been embraced in Italy in recent years. Finally, in the concluding section, the article argues for a shift towards a critical approach to research on the Italian southern regions and local productive systems.