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Ideological Profile of Twentieth-Century Italy

Ideological Profile of Twentieth-Century Italy

Norberto Bobbio
TRANSLATED BY Lydia G. Cochrane
Series: Agnelli
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Ideological Profile of Twentieth-Century Italy
    Book Description:

    Anyone interested in the entire sweep of political thought over the last hundred years will find in Norberto Bobbio'sIdeological Profile of Twentieth-Century Italya masterful, thought-provoking guide. Home to the largest communist party in a democratic society, Italy has been a unique place politically, one where Christian democrats, liberals, fascists, socialists, communists, and others have co-existed in sizable numbers. In this book, Bobbio, who himself played an outstanding role in the development of Italian civic culture, follows each of the major ideologies, explaining how they developed, describing the key actors, and considering the legacies they left to political culture. He wroteIdeological Profilein 1968 to explain from a personal perspective the history behind that decade's tumultuous politics. Bobbio's defense of democracy and critique of capitalism are among the themes that will particularly interest American readers of this updated edition, the first to appear in English.

    Beginning in the late nineteenth century with positivism and Marxism, Bobbio next presents the ideological currents that developed before the outbreak of the First World War: Catholic, socialist, irrational and anti-democratic thought, the reaction against positivism, and the thinking of Benedetto Croce. After discussing the impact of the war, the author turns to the revolutionary-reactionary polarization of the postwar period and the ideology of fascism. The final chapters consider Croce's opposition to fascism and the ideals of the resistance and conclude with the post-Second World War "Years of Involvement."

    Originally published in 1995.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6417-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    What is the value of reading modern Italian history? What lessons might Americans, and an English-language public more generally, derive from Italy’s national experience and its historians’ interpretation of that experience? What approaches to historical study can their outstanding works propose that we might not have already learned from thementalitésanalyzed by the French, the documentation of class and elite politics contributed by the British, or the earnest archival scrutiny and national reassessment on the part of the Germans? To be sure, these questions presuppose anAmericanreader or at least a reader oriented in his or her own...

    (pp. xv-xxxvi)

    Every book has its history. It is the child of an epoch; it is the mirror of the moral and intellectual world of a man or a woman and their development; it responds to the questions that arise in the consciousness of individuals as they take their stand in relation to the acts and works of others; it gives interpretations and attributes meanings; it is linked to certain tendencies and traditions and rejects and combats others.

    The first Italian edition of Norberto Bobbio’sProfile ideologico del Novecentowas published in 1969. There have been two Italian editions since then, in...

    (pp. xxxvii-xxxviii)
    (pp. xxxix-xl)
    Norberto Bobbio
    (pp. xli-2)
    (pp. 3-14)

    A great coalition gathered to oppose positivism in the early years of the twentieth century, but in Italy positivism never really took hold, and the reaction it provoked was an enormous tempest in a teapot. Positive philosophy arose with Saint-Simon, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as a first and still rough awareness of the profound transformation that the Industrial Revolution had produced in society—a revolution that had overturned the constituted order, not by substituting one political class for another but by replacing the rule of the politicians and the metaphysicians with that of the industrialists and the...

    (pp. 15-32)

    Even when they disagreed, positivism and Marxism were both secular conceptions of history, and in different ways and with different intentions, both were hostile to and were disliked by “the philosophy of the Italian schools.” In the antagonistic vision of society that they shared, they preferred movement to tranquility and conflict to order, they believed in progress through struggle, and they put social peace at the end, not, like the conservatives of all ages, at the beginning of history. They seemed destined to bring the sometime glorious tradition of Catholic thought (in which no one still believed, or so they...

    (pp. 33-44)

    In the realm of ideas—more specifically, of philosophy—the first decade of the twentieth century was a time of restoration (some might have ennobled it by calling it a “reawakening”) The major figure in this restoration, Benedetto Croce, spoke of it twenty-five years later with evident satisfaction

    The result of this reaction was a widening of the spiritual horizon Great ideas which had been obscured shone once more with their former brightness, fertile lines of thought were again pursued, courage and zeal for speculation were reborn, the books of the great philosophers both ancient and modern were reopened, including...

  11. Chapter Four THE ANTIDEMOCRATS
    (pp. 45-56)

    While the real Italy demanded increasing popular participation in power and the legal Italy moved toward the consolidation of liberal institutions, intellectual Italy, in some of its most influential or most vociferous tendencies, took a firm stand against nascent democracy.

    Antidemocratic reaction took two forms, one conservative or late-Liberal, the other clearly extremist. The conservatives saw democracy less as an evil in itself than as a form of government inappropriate for a young country; a door flung wide to welcome demagogues and famished and illiterate plebs, and a Trojan horse introducing socialist subversion into a fragile Liberal regime. The extremists...

  12. Chapter Five THE TWO SOCIALISMS
    (pp. 57-68)

    That nationalism and revolutionary syndicalism were congenial was not merely a clever discovery on Corradini’s part. Inasmuch as it was both a conservative and an extremist doctrine, nationalism drew on the dual traditions of reactionary thought and revolutionary thought, which, in Italy of the time, was for the most part represented by Sorelian ideas. For some years, Nationalists and revolutionary syndicalists made up the two extremes of reaction against a social democracy allied with liberalism to conserve and develop an immature democracy based, albeit with many defects and failings, on the model of civilly and industrially more advanced nations like...

  13. Chapter Six BENEDETTO CROCE
    (pp. 69-80)

    The years discussed in chapter 5 were marked by the hegemony (a term, even in Antonio Gramsci’s vocabulary, more exact than “dictatorship”) of Benedetto Croce. The intellectual movements of his time both irradiated from and converged in Croce’s thought. Positivism, as we have seen, had been assailed from two opposing sides: by historical materialism because of its deterministic naturalism and its optimistic evolutionism; by irrationalism for its abstract intellectualism and faith in reform through science. Croce unleashed his own attack against positivism, calling on the support of both historical materialism and irrationalism, hence having these currents as allies (at times...

  14. Chapter Seven THE LESSON OF FACTS
    (pp. 81-90)

    Positivism was dead—positivism as a philosophy, or, as its critics claimed, as a worship offact. But the voices of those who had learned the lesson of positivistic method when positivism was in vogue—thatfactsmust be taken into account—were not so quickly stifled, and they did not give in to idealism, whose followers gradually deserted the critical fervor of Croce for the philosophical delirium of Gentile. What little remained of liberal and democratic thought—of civil liberalism and nondemagogic democratic currents—in the prefascist age (the term follows the sage principle ofrespice finem) was hardly...

  15. Chapter Eight WORLD WAR I: AN INTERLUDE
    (pp. 91-102)

    During the nineteenth century, two antithetical concepts of war (and thus of peace) had competed for acceptance. The first was positivist and evolutionist: it held that the Industrial Revolution would so change traditional military societies founded on war that peace would be inevitable because it would be beneficial. The second was romantic. Starting from a dramatic and dialectical view of history, it considered war inevitable and beneficial. War was either bad only in appearance (that is, it was an ill from which good derived, even if the actors in the drama were unaware that this was the case) or it...

    (pp. 103-121)

    Croce to the contrary,¹ Serra was right: the war had not improved, redeemed, or cancelled anything. It had performed no miracles. Even where cultural momentum was concerned (which was Serra’s only interest), “it had changed nothing.” The new generation’s mentors (Gobetti’s, for instance) were men of the preceding generation: Croce and Gentile, Pareto and Mosca, Einaudi and Salvemini. As if nothing had happened, each of these picked up where he had left off with a cheerfulheri dicebamus, almost always publishing in the same reviews, which had continued uninterrupted. When we read about the intellectual formation of the young of...

    (pp. 122-132)

    It might seem paradoxical that fascism, one of the typical “ideologies” of our time, was presented, in its formative stage, as an anti-ideological movement and that its novelty and strength lay precisely in not being offered as an ideology but as a praxis justified exclusively by its success. As early as 23 March 1921, Mussolini declared:

    Fascism is a great mobilization of material and moral forces. What does it propose? We say without false modesty: to govern the nation…. We do not believe in dogmatic programs…. We will permit ourselves the luxury of being aristocrats and democrats, conservatives and progressives,...

  18. Chapter Eleven CROCE IN OPPOSITION
    (pp. 133-142)

    In spite of all the trouble the Fascists went to in order to invoke a “Fascist culture” and seek to impose it through the school system, periodicals, newspapers, and ad hoc institutions, and although Gentile had been rendered harmless and the Gentilians had been kept at bay, fascism failed to produce a culture of its own. The only traces it has left in the history of Italian culture are rhetorical flourishes, literary bombast, and doctrinal improvisations. This does not mean that the years of the Fascist regime were devoid of any intense or lasting cultural life, but it was not...

    (pp. 143-156)

    What Capitini was proposing was passive resistance. But the small groups that were organizing to oppose fascism between 1935 and 1940 could not separate the practice of passive resistance from preparation for active resistance when the occasion arose. In the meantime, the Spanish Civil War provided the first test of active resistance for the organized antifascism that had existed for some years outside Italy. The decisive trial for antifascists, both within and outside of Italy, came later, with the war of liberation against nazism and fascism that was called, by antonomasia, “resistance.”

    Although some writers still speak of the ideologies...

  20. Chapter Thirteen THE YEARS OF COMMITMENT
    (pp. 157-168)

    Fascism had led Italy to catastrophe, as the antifascists had foreseen. Contrary to their hopes, however, the Resistance failed to bring a rebirth. It did not take Italians too many months (from the liberation of Northern Italy in April 1945 to the fall of the Parri government in November of that year)*to realize that in spite of the bloody war that it had unleashed (the bloodiest to date), fascism had been a long parenthesis, and now history would begin more or less where it had left off before, just as the conservatives had predicted to the impatient revolutionaries of...

  21. Chapter Fourteen DEMOCRACY ON TRIAL
    (pp. 169-186)

    The nearly forty years that followed the promulgation of the Constitution can be divided into two roughly equal periods. The first, from 1948 to 1968, was a period of unceasing growth, both economic and political, for Italian society; the second, from 1968 to today, included years of economic and political transformation and of difficult and still uncertain transition from one equilibrium of political forces to another that might result in a reform of the Constitution itself.

    The year 1968 was a turning point for many reasons. Youth protest, with its penchant for tumultuous assemblies and the exercise of violence (at...

  22. Chapter Fifteen TOWARD A NEW REPUBLIC?
    (pp. 187-202)

    Panziri’s last study (he died suddenly in 1964) was entitled “Uso socialista dell’inchiesta operaia.” Written in September 1964 to preface the investigation of worker awareness thatQuaderni rossihad sponsored but never managed to complete, it was published posthumously in that review the following year. In it, Panzieri attacked the Marxists’ mistrust of sociology (and that of leftist culture in general) as a bourgeois science, explaining that Marxism had been born as sociology, and as sociology, it was science, albeit, unlike bourgeois sociology, a “science of revolution.” Thus, the statistical survey was a method that would “permit avoidance of all...

    (pp. 203-214)
    (pp. 215-228)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 229-239)