"On Liberal Revolution" by Piero Gobetti

On Liberal Revolution Piero Gobetti, Nadia Urbinati, William McCuaig

Italian Literature and Thought
Publication date:
11 Aug 2000
Yale University Press
304 pages: 210 x 140mm

This book is the first English-language edition of a collection of writings by one of Italy’s most important radical liberals, Piero Gobetti (1901–1926). In thirty-five thought-provoking essays, Gobetti proposes an original and challenging notion of liberalism as a revolutionary theory of both the individual and social and political movements. His theory is of particular relevance in the wake of the collapse of Marxist socialism, as non-Western countries with nonliberal or antiliberal cultural and moral traditions confront the problems of transition toward democracy and liberalism. Gobetti’s ideas continue to influence in important ways today’s heated debates over the nature of liberalism.

Gobetti was the first Italian scholar to identify “two Italys”: one enlightened and modern though small and weak, the other premodern, traditional, and dominant. A witness to the seizure of power by the Fascists, Gobetti became convinced that Italy’s hostility to liberalism could be overcome only with a cultural revolution. Endorsing a radical liberalism, he nevertheless believed that the Communists, led by Antonio Gramsci, could play a crucial role in democratizing Italy by helping to develop a secular culture. For a liberal state to subsist and grow, Gobetti argued, there must first be a transformation of both the economic structure and the legal and moral culture of the society.

Nadia Urbinati is assistant professor in the department of political science at Columbia University. William McCuaig lives in Toronto. His previous translations include Liberal Socialism by Carlo Rosselli and Italian Foreign Policy by Federico Chabod.

"Piero Gobetti was a brilliant young theorist of Italian liberalism in the years after World War I, a Turin intellectual in implicit dialogue with Gramsci, critical of an encroaching Fascism, and despite his early death, a major source for Resistance leaders. The availability of On Liberal Revolution will be a great addition for English-speaking readers wishing to understand the continuing catalytic role of Italian democratic ideas."?Charles S. Maier, Harvard University 

"For students of Italian history, Gobetti?s essays provide important and perceptive analyses of the fascist movement in its earliest forms, as well as fascinating descriptions of leading Italian and European political and cultural figures of the time."?John Davis, University of Connecticut May edit

?The articles translated in On Liberal Revolution make a very important contribution to bringing a virtually unknown political thinker to the attention of the English-speaking world. . . . The articles also give the reader a clear idea of the distinctly revolutionary nature of Gobetti?s liberalism and just what was lost with his early death. Thanks go to Urbinati for bringing this patrimony of ideas to English readers.??Darrow Schecter, History of European Ideas

?The translation is clear and accessible, and Urbinati?s excellent introduction situates Gobetti?s work in the context of his time and admirably shows how it speaks to the most fundamental questions of liberal theory. The text is graced with wonderfully informative notes that identify individuals and events Gobetti referred to, making the work accessible to nonspecialists.??J. D. Moon, Choice