Through what mechanisms do social cognitive and normative dispositions of individuals help define the economic and social development of different territories? Placing itself within the tradition of the sociology of public action and making use of the results of a comparative study on the implementation of cohesion policy in Sicily and Sardinia, this paper suggests that the different reflexivity of public action found in the two regions could be conditioned by collective processes of individualization. The policies developed in the two regions differ for their degree of appropriateness to the economic and social history of their respective territories. The processes of individualization that enhance the dimensions of otherness and those of the limit, the legal and historical formations of individual autonomies seem to be the social mechanisms that could most of all affect the reflectivity of public action and the effectiveness of policies. The comparison reveals that the chronological anticipation of the processes of formation of private property and the social entrepreneurship role played by the local aristocracy following the unification of Italy led to the internalization of the legal sense of the limit and to that of the social need to regulate the lives of individuals in relation to others.