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Historicism and Fascism in Modern Italy

Historicism and Fascism in Modern Italy

David D. Roberts
  • Book Info
    Historicism and Fascism in Modern Italy
    Book Description:

    This set of twelve essays by one of the leading scholars in the field represents an authoritative view of the modern Italian intellectual tradition, its relationship with fascism, and its enduring implications for history, politics, and culture in Italy and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8442-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction: Historicism, Fascism, and the Wider Significance of the Modern Italian Experience
    (pp. 3-34)

    I am grateful to those colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic who have suggested that I publish a selection of my essays on modern Italian topics. Doing so enables me to bring together a set of pieces, most previously published, but several as yet unpublished, that explore interlocking themes from a variety of angles. I thought it might be useful to make even those already published more readily available, especially because their publication has been in disparate venues, some hard to find in North America or the anglophone world. A few have been published only in Italian. But I...

  4. chapter 1 An Indirect Italian Angle on a Few Big Historical Questions
    (pp. 35-53)

    We’ve not had a tradition of such inaugural lectures in our department, and I’m honoured that Ed has asked me to start one. In the European tradition, such lectures were often noble exercises in civic education. And I’d love to pronounce upon the state of the republic in light of Iraq, or perhaps the state of American popular culture in light of Super Bowl halftime shows and wardrobe failures. But I have no special expertise in American foreign policy, and though I am indeed male, I have to admit that, despite appearances, I’m not actually part of the vaunted nineteen-...

  5. chapter 2 Franchini’s Disillusionment: Rereading the Intervista su Croce from Abroad
    (pp. 54-67)

    It is a particular pleasure for me to return to this distinguished university to honour the memory of Raffaello Franchini, whom I never met personally, but whose works were fundamental to me as I wrote my book of 1987 on Croce and the contemporary relevance of his absolute historicism. I am most grateful to Professors Cantillo and Viti Cavaliere for their invitation to participate. As an American intellectual historian, I thought I could best contribute to our common enterprise of renewing Franchini’s legacy if I returned to hisIntervista su Croce(Interview on Croce) of 1978, which expressed his disillusionment...

  6. chapter 3 The Revolt against Croce in Post–Second World War Italian Culture
    (pp. 68-80)

    It’s well known that Benedetto Croce’s influence in Italian intellectual life declined sharply after the collapse of fascism in the early 1940s. There is something puzzling about this, and we’ll get to that shortly. First, though, we need to remind ourselves that this wasn’t the first revolt against Croce, who had had his ups and downs since his heyday during the first decade of the twentieth century. Moreover, some of the reasons for his eclipse during the 1940s are fairly obvious. We needn’t posit some archetypal revolt against the great-grandfather to explain why someone who seemed fresh and exciting in...

  7. chapter 4 Croce in America: Influence, Misunderstanding, and Neglect (with a supplement on the fortunes of Giovanni Gentile in the United States and Canada)
    (pp. 81-113)

    Benedetto Croce (1866 1952) was the leading Italian intellectual of the first half of the twentieth century and one of Europe’s best-known public figures by the 1940s. The pioneering review he launched in 1903,La critica, is to be found in virtually every American research library, as are many of his more than eighty books. First in aesthetics and literary criticism, beginning in about 1910, and then in historiography, beginning in about 1920, Croce’s ideas were prominent in American discussion - and remained so into the 1960s. For much of that time, his status as one of the notable European thinkers...

  8. chapter 5 Historicism, Liberalism, Fascism: Rethinking the Croce-Gentile Schism
    (pp. 114-142)

    Recent changes in our historical self-understanding invite – or demand – a renewed effort to learn from the twentieth-century political experience, marked by the unforeseen eruption of totalitarian extremes and by the apparent reconfirmation of liberal democracy in the aftermath. The totalitarian variants played off what their advocates claimed were the inadequacies of the liberal mainstream, and, conversely, the confident self-understanding of liberal democracy by the late twentieth century derives partly from the disastrous outcomes of those totalitarian alternatives. alternatives. The whole experience has led to certain ways of framing the binary dualisms that structure our understanding of...

  9. chapter 6 Maggi’s Croce, Sasso’s Gentile, and the Riddles of Twentieth-Century Italian Intellectual History
    (pp. 143-172)

    In Italy at the dawn of the twentieth century, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) and Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944) seized the cultural spotlight and spearheaded a remarkable intellectual revolution. And though they made lots of enemies along the way, and though they themselves split bitterly over fascism, they proved central to Italian intellectual history during the first half of the century – and in less direct but still crucial ways thereafter. Those who passed within their orbit constitute a virtual who’s who among Italian intellectuals of the period, from Guido De Ruggiero, Adolfo Omodeo, Luigi Russo, and Giuseppe Lombardo-Radice to Guido Calogero,...

  10. chapter 7 How Not to Think about Fascism and Ideology, Intellectual Antecedents and Historical Meaning
    (pp. 173-200)

    What is the place of Italian fascism within the contours of Western cultural and political development since the Enlightenment? The answer would surely encompass not only outcomes but also the originating aspirations that produced fascism in the first place, whether or not those aspirations bore fruit in the practice of Mussolini’s regime. At issue are questions about the relationship of fascism to antecedent intellectual innovationandto the subsequent intellectual framework – the framework from within which we seek to place the fascist experience today. And those questions lead quickly to the slippery issue of ‘ideology.’

    It was long held that...

  11. chapter 8 Croce, Crocean Historicism, and Contemporary History after Fascism
    (pp. 201-210)

    The recent reassessment of the bases of the postwar Italian Republic has necessarily entailed a re-examination of the pivotal 1940s, when Italy first sought to come to terms with the fascist past and to find a post-fascist orientation. The result has been renewed controversy over what was confronted and what was sidestepped in the supercharged atmosphere of recrimination, shame, hope, and expectation that characterized that decade. Much rested on how to apportion national versus supranational and historically specific versus ahistorical factors in accounting for the emergence and disastrous trajectory of fascism. Obviously prescription for the future depended on the diagnosis...

  12. chapter 9 Crocean Historicism and Post-Totalitarian Thought
    (pp. 211-220)

    The unexpected decay of communism in east-central Europe was bound up with a good deal of innovative thinking about how the system functioned, how it might be overcome, and how best to proceed into the future in light of what the late communist experience had revealed. Such key intellectuals as the Poles Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuroń, the Hungarians Miklós Haraszti and George Konrád, and the Czechs Milan Kundera and Václav Havel became known in the West even before the fall of the communist regimes. And though their accents sometimes differed considerably, they seemed to Western observers to occupy the...

  13. chapter 10 What Is Living and What Is Dead? Ginzburg’s Microhistory, Croce’s Historicism, and the Search for a Postmodern Historiography
    (pp. 221-236)

    I am most grateful to Professor Viti Cavaliere for the invitation to speak at this distinguished and historic institution, which has influenced even my own intellectual development significantly, if indirectly. As a second-year graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, I took the seminar of Professor Carl Schorske, the well-known student of fin-de-siècle Vienna. His topic that year was ‘universities and museums,’ and I chose to write on the University of Naples in the age of the Risorgimento. Studying the remarkable generation of Francesco De Sanctis, Bertrando Spaventa, and Luigi Settembrini, I came to ponder for the first...

  14. chapter 11 The Stakes of Misreading: Hayden White, Carlo Ginzburg, and the Crocean Legacy
    (pp. 237-264)

    Hayden White and Carlo Ginzburg have been two of the most influential figures in Western historiography over the past half century. White is widely credited with reorienting theoretical discussion through a linguistic turn, focusing on the construction of historical texts in narrative language, after the analytical philosophy of history seemed to have reached a point of diminishing returns by the late 1960s. But many practising historians found White’s innovations threatening; he seemed to invite a blurring of fact and fiction and thus to breed skepticism and relativism. During the same period, Ginzburg became one of the most revered practising historians...

  15. chapter 12 Postmodernism and History: An Unfinished Agenda
    (pp. 265-288)

    In the anglophone world, we have experienced a flurry of discussion over ‘postmodernism and history’ over the past fifteen years or so, producing much rancor but also some soul-searching, at least for a while. Many believe the peak of the encounter now to have passed. ‘The theory wars are over,’ proclaimed Michael S. Roth in 2004, noting that Keith Jenkins’s postmodernist manifestoRethinking Historywas to be reissued as a Routledge Classic. As Roth saw it, the time had come to write the history of postmodernism.¹ But polarization continues even among practising historians as some embrace ‘theory’ of one sort...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 289-360)
  17. Index
    (pp. 361-370)