The Crisis of Modernity

The Crisis of Modernity

Augusto Del Noce
Edited and translated by Carlo Lancellotti
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    The Crisis of Modernity
    Book Description:

    In his native Italy Augusto Del Noce is regarded as one of the preeminent political thinkers and philosophers of the period after the Second World War. The Crisis of Modernity makes available for the first time in English a selection of Del Noce's essays and lectures on the cultural history of the twentieth century. Del Noce maintained that twentieth-century history must be understood specifically as a philosophical history, because Western culture was profoundly affected by the major philosophies of the previous century such as idealism, Marxism, and positivism. Such philosophies became the secular, neo-gnostic surrogate of Christianity for the European educated classes after the French Revolution, and the next century put them to the practical test, bringing to light their ultimate and necessary consequences. One of the first thinkers to recognize the failure of Marxism, Del Noce posited that this failure set the stage for a new secular, technocratic society that had taken up Marx’s historical materialism and atheism while rejecting his revolutionary doctrine. Displaying Del Noce's rare ability to reconstruct intellectual genealogies and to expose the deep metaphysical premises of social and political movements, The Crisis of Modernity presents an original reading of secularization, scientism, the sexual revolution, and the history of modern Western culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9673-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Translator’s Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxiv)

    In his writings, augusto del noce quotes more than once a famous line from the preface to Hegel’sElements of the Philosophy of Right:“philosophy is its own time apprehended in thought.”¹ Del Noce certainly disagreed with what Hegel intended to say – namely, that it is “foolish” to think “that any philosophy can transcend its contemporary world” – since he did not doubt that philosophy can achieve timeless and meta-historical truths. Nonetheless, Hegel’s sentence can be used, in a different sense, to describe Del Noce’s own reflection: as a form of thought deeply engaged with history. Among thinkers of...


    • 1 The Idea of Modernity
      (pp. 3-18)

      I will try to summarize as briefly as possible the questions posed by the idea of modernity.

      1 Modern comes fromhodiernus: first of all, the word has a chronological meaning.

      2 However, when it is joined to the word “philosophy” or is turned into a substantive by introducing the idea of “modernity,” it generally takes anaxiologicalmeaning. It indicates a “point of no return,” that “today it is no longer possible.”

      3 This raises various questions. (a) What “is no longer possible today?” (b) By what process did the transition from the chronological to the axiological meaning take...

    • 2 Violence and Modern Gnosticism
      (pp. 19-48)

      1 In his 1970 bookL’oscuramento dell’intelligenza, Michele Federico Sciacca described our age as the time when Nietzsche and Rosmini are relevant in a complementary fashion.¹ He explained that the thought of the first “great and merciless denouncer of the West’s ‘death by nihilism’”² manifests the inner truth of the side of modern philosophy that calls itself post-Christian; in his works this philosophy reveals its aspect of “loss of being” and thus, precisely, of “nihilism.” Conversely, Rosmini is the philosopher of the “recovery of being.” In him the metaphysics of being truly shines, having been purified – precisely because of...

    • 3 Revolution, Risorgimento, Tradition
      (pp. 49-58)

      The word “revolution” has multiple meanings that, at first sight, do not seem unifiable. So much so that it is always accompanied by some adjective and seems to be circumscribed to the area indicated by that adjective. To bring up an example that may seem frivolous to the point of absurdity, sometimes one hears, and reads in magazines, that miniskirts mark a “revolution” in women’s fashion. But how is this “revolution” related to socio-economic or religious revolution? (Although, looking carefully, there is a relationship because there is no minute detail of human life that does not reflect or, to be...

    • 4 The Latent Metaphysics within Contemporary Politics
      (pp. 59-72)

      Today we are discussing the question of the role of philosophy in the history of our century. What is the relation between the developments of philosophy and political history? How significant are the causal effects of ideas? One realizes immediately that these questions can be answered in two opposite ways. In fact, one may think that in our century philosophy and history went their separate ways, like never before in previous ages. Certainly, every political movement sought legitimization from some philosophical tradition in order to receive its cultural sanction, especially during the last few decades. This gave rise to the...

    • 5 Secularization and the Crisis of Modernity
      (pp. 73-84)

      My theses on the philosophical interpretation of contemporary history set me apart from the majority of scholars, from those on both the right and the left, from both the Marxists and the secularists, and also from the prevalent Catholic culture and from the forms of progressivism, at times moderate and at times radical, that this culture generally professes. I recall what the Berlin historian Ernst Nolte wrote to me: that regarding this line of interpretation – which in fact is developed quite differently by each of us – we find ourselves nearly isolated in the world.¹ An explanation of the...


    • 6 Toward a New Totalitarianism
      (pp. 87-91)

      In an article that appeared in the previous issue, I argued that the most important phenomenon and the gravest danger of these last few years is the emergence of a new form of totalitarianism.¹ This danger is even greater because so far it has not been diagnosed precisely.

      Unlike Stalinism or Hitlerism, its main characteristic is not that of being a political movement that aims at world domination. It is marked, instead, by a quest to bring about the disintegration² of one part of the world (in the case at hand, Europe). Nevertheless, the word totalitarianism is still appropriate because...

    • 7 The Shadow of Tomorrow
      (pp. 92-117)

      Let us look back at the thirties: Croce was the leading light of secular anti-Fascism and Maritain of Catholic anti-Fascism, at a time when it seemed extremely likely, if not completely unavoidable, that Fascism would triumph worldwide, or at least endure for several generations. And when many of the most admirable spirits (in Italy, I am thinking of Martinetti) seemed to incline toward Gnostic-Manichean forms of dualism and pessimism.

      Then let us look at the present, twenty-five years after victory: the forms of thought most exactly opposed to the forms advocated by those distinguished thinkers are prevalent, or actually almost...

    • 8 The Death of the Sacred
      (pp. 118-136)

      I read in a splendid book by Manuel García Pelayo that, for many years now, Soviet historians have honoured the monk Philotheus of Pskov – who, at the end of the fifteenth century, invented the myth of “Moscow the third Rome” after Catholic Rome and Byzantine Rome – with the title of “progressive.”¹

      What is strange about that, you will ask. Every young man knows by heart all possible disquisitions about “Russian imperialism.” Every intellectual keeps saying that by now we have entered the age ofhomo progressivus, and that demythologization is a sign of our maturity. Supposedly, Russia’s historical...

    • 9 The Roots of the Crisis
      (pp. 137-156)

      The year 1971 was marked by the rediscovery of Fourier as the precursor or first theorizer of the permissive society.¹ There was a proliferation of new editions, introductions, and essays. Everybody forgot, however, that the best introduction to the works of this French utopian had already been written in 1849 by Antonio Rosmini, and was easily available because it was reprinted in 1968.² Rosmini highlighted the contradiction of Fourierism as follows: the promise of the greatest freedom and greatest unity among men, achieved by giving complete freedom to the passions, or, as Fourier used to say, to passionate attraction, would...

    • 10 The Ascendance of Eroticism
      (pp. 157-186)

      Today no moral opinion is more widespread, and more passively accepted, than the one that says that we should recognize, as an irreversible reality, that society’s sense of modesty has changed significantly over the last few years. So that today the average man, i.e., thenormalman (meaning neither nostalgic nor neurotic) accepts without any moral reaction displays of sexuality that a few years ago were inconceivable. Hence, laws need to conform to the new morals, since the very notion of lewdness has changed: who can deny that mores, dress styles, fashions change, even though the formal concept of morality...


    • 11 Authority versus Power
      (pp. 189-246)

      1 The eclipse of the idea of authority is one of the essential characteristics of today’s world; in fact, it is the most immediately observable characteristic. Therefore, it can be said that the relevant literature is found not so much in the specific studies on this topic – which are mostly inadequate – but rather in the reflection about the contemporary world itself in its various aspects, taken as objects of study. This observation should be accompanied by the disposition to look at these aspects with a mind free from the dogmatic presupposition that the present state of affairs is...

    • 12 A “New” Perspective on Right and Left
      (pp. 247-260)

      One of today’s many clichés says that dialogue between so-called right-wing and left-wing Catholics is absolutely impossible. Supposedly, the opposition is as radical as that between “static and closed” religion and “dynamic and open” religion. These are old words, certainly, whose success dates back to 1932, to the too-famous book by BergsonThe Two Sources of Morality and Religion,¹ which arguably marked the rebirth of religious Modernism. But today’s left is not especially fond of originality or novelty of language, for the simple reason that repetitions are not in the least boring; they are actually welcome, to the extent that...


    • APPENDIX A The Story of a Solitary Thinker
      (pp. 263-271)
    • APPENDIX B Notes on Secularization and Religious Thought
      (pp. 272-286)
    • APPENDIX C Eric Voegelin and the Critique of the Idea of Modernity
      (pp. 287-306)
  8. Index
    (pp. 307-312)