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Idealism and Liberalism in an Italian ‘New Liberal Theorist’: Guido De Ruggiero's History of European Liberalism*

  • Richard Bellamy (a1)
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1 The classic statement of this view is Hobhouse, L. T.The metaphysical theory of the state (London, 1918). A similar opinion expressed by Baillic, J. B. in Studies in human nature (London, 1921), p. VII aroused the wrath of De Ruggiero, in Filosofi del novecento, 3rd edn (Bari, 1946).

2 References are to the Collingwood translation The history of European liberalism (Oxford, 1927). Described by him as ‘a great book’ he believed ‘no book known to me since T. H. Green has, I think, made so fine a theoretical contribution to liberal doctrine, and this is far more complete and far more highly organized than anything of Green's’. Letter of Collingwood to De Ruggiero 18–11–26, Collingwood MSS. Bodleian Library, Oxford, Folder 27.

3 For biographical information, see Garin, E., Intellectuali italiani del XX secolo (Roma, 1974), pp. 105–36 and Calo, G.Salvatorelli, L., ‘Guido de Ruggiero’, Accademia Nazionale da Lincei, Quaderno 13 (Rome, 1949). On the diverse political doctrines of Italian Hegelians see my ' Gentile, Croce and Hegel, and the doctrine of the ethical state, Rivista di Studi Crociani, XX (1983), 263–81 and ‘Liberalism and historicism – Benedet to Croce and the political role of idealism in Italy c. 1890–1952’ in The promise of History, ed. Moulakis, A. (Berlin/New York, 1985), pp. 69119.

4 See Sasso, G., ‘Considerazioni sulla filosofia di De Ruggiero’, De Homine, XXI (1967), 2370 for a comparison of Gentile and De Ruggiero's philosophy showing the substantial influence of Gentile throughout all De Ruggiero's writings. De Ruggiero's, paper ‘La scienza come esperienza assoluta’, Annuario delta Biblioteca Filosofica of Palermo, II (1912), 229339 essentially reproduces the themes of Gentile's, first outline of his actualism in ‘L'atto del pensare come atto puro’, Annuario, I (1912), 2742.

5 Contemporary philosophy, translated by Collingwood, R. G. and Howard, A. (London, 1921), PP. 375, 16–18.

6 European liberalism, pp. 357–63. Idem. ‘Liberalism’ in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, IX (London, 1933), pp. 435–41.

7 I explore this central theme of Italian political thought in my book Modern Italian social theory – ideology and politics from Pareto to Gramsci, Polity Press, forthcoming.

8 La pensee italienne et la guerre’, Revue de Metaphysique et de Morale, XXIII (1916), 748–85.

9 Ibid. pp. 751, 756–761, 760–1, 762, 764, 769.

10 The articles are almost completely collected in de Ruggiero, Guido, Scritti politici 1912–26, ed. Felice, Renzo de (Bologna, 1969). De Felice's long introduction, pp. 1–76, is the best analysis of De Ruggiero's political thought, but see too de Aloysio, Francesco, ‘Note al Guido de Ruggiero politico nel periodo della nascita e dell'avvento del fascismo’, Rivista storica del socialismo, XXIII (1960), 725–45, which is an important corrective to Garin, E., Intellettuali, pp. 105–36. The two books are L'impero brilannico dopo la guerra (Firenze, 1921) and ‘La formazione dell' impero britannico’ in L'Europa nel secolo XIX, I Storiapolitico, ed. Donati, D. and Carli, F., (Padua, 1925), PP. 477513.

11 ‘II tramonto del liberalism’, II Resto del Carlino, 19 Feb. 1917, Scrttti, p. 174.

12 ‘II trionfo del liberalismo’, Il Tempo, 23 Jan. 1919, Scritti, pp. 196–200.

13 ‘Tendenze’, Il Resto del Carhno, 28 April 1919, Scntti, pp. 236–9.

14 See ‘Discussionisocialiste’, Il Resto del Carhno, 17 July 1919 and ‘Lostato sociahsta’, Il Paese 2 Aug. 1921, Scritti, pp. 274–8, 380–4.

15 I am here more or less paraphrasing De Ruggiero's own account of Hobhouse, in European liberalism, pp. 155–7, where he passes his famous judgement on the work as ‘the best formulation of the new English Liberalism of the twentieth century’ combining ‘the teaching of Mill and Green in a modernized form’ (p. 155). Justification for an idealist reading of Liberalism is provided by Collini, Stefan, Liberalism and sociology – L. T. Hobhouse and political argument in England 1880–1914 (Cambridge, 1979), ch. 4.

16 Hobhouse, L. T., Liberalism (1911) (Oxford, 1964), pp. 66, 80–1, 69, 67–8.

17 See Collini, Stefan, ‘Hobhouse, Bosanquet and the state: philosophical idealism and political argument in England 1880–1918’, Past and Present, LXXII (1976), 86111.

18 The metaphysical theory of the state, pp. 71, 60–1.

19 Liberalism, pp. 70, 69.

20 Collini, Stefan, Liberalism and sociology, pp. 147–70, 235–40 shows how Hobhouse's argument is based on his account of progress and that after World War One this becomes more idealist in nature than otherwise.

21 See Il concetto del lavoro nella sua genesi storica, Il filo di arianna, n. 20 (Rome 1947), p. 42.

22 Liberalism, pp. 88–109.

23 L'impero britanmco dopo la guerra, pp. 59–62.

24 I presupposti economici del liberalismo’, La Rivoluzione Liberale, I (1922), n. 2, 19 02 pp. 68, ‘La politica inglese in Italia’, Il Paese, 2, March 1922, ‘In tema di collaborazione’, Il Paese 17 June 1922, Scnth, pp. 472–6, 521–5.

26 La lotta politica – liberali e laburisti’, La Rivoluzione Liberale, III (1924), n. 13–14, 25 March–1 04, p. 51 and ‘Liberalismo sociale e liberal-socialismo’ in Il ritomo alia ragione (Bari, 1946), pp. 240–5.

26 L'impero britannio dopo la guerra, pp. 57–8.

27 ‘I presupposti economici del liberalismo’, ‘Orientamenti’, Il Paese, 30 July 1922, ‘II trionfo della tecnica’, Il Resto del Carlino, 19 Dec. 1922, Scritti, pp. 535—9, 595–600.

28 ‘Il concetto liberale’, La nostra scuola, 16–31 March 1921, Scritti, pp. 365–71 (preface to his book on English politics as a statement of his ideas on liberalism, it earned the book sequestration by the authorities), ‘Decalogo Spicciolo’, Il Paese, 2 April 1922, ‘Servitù o libertà’, Il Paese, 13 June 1922, ‘Krumiraggio liberale’, II Paese, 20 June 1922, ‘Liberali!’ Il Paese, 15 Oct. 1922, Scritti, pp. 482–6, 510–4, 526–30, 585–7.

29 ‘Servitù o libertà’, Il Paese, 13 June 1922, Scritti, pp. 511.

30 ‘Il concetto liberale’, p. 367. The liberal party, he argued, was the continuation of the liberalism of the nineteenth century only in the same sense that ‘a deposit of coal is the continuation of a forest’. ‘Liberali!’, p. 586.

31 ‘Il problema dell'autorità’, Il Paese, 8 Dec. 1921, Scritti, p. 423.

32 Che cosa è il fascismo? Discorsi e polemiche (Florence, 1925), pp. 2933, 41–63, 65–94, and Harris, H. S., The social philosophy of G. Gentile (urbana, 1960), pp. 167–82.

33 ‘Intorno al Fascismo’, Il Resto del Car lino, 14 Feb. 1922, ‘L'avenire del Fascismo’, Il Paese 13 Sept. 1921, ‘Il Fascismo e la lottaagraria’, Il Paese 5 Nov. 1921, ‘Memorie inutile’, Le Battaglie del Mezzogiorno, Scritti, pp. 389–92, 402–6, 450–4, 615–9, Il liberalismo e la masse’, La Rivoluzione Liberate, II (1923), n. 12, 1 05 1923, p. 49.

34 European liberalism, pp. 326, 327, 329, 339, 343.

35 European liberalism, pp. 343, 350–7. 355. 358. 388–9, 393–5

36 Il ritorno alia ragione (Bari, 1946), pp. 14, 29.

37 European liberalism was reprinted in 1941, leading to him losing his chair at Rome and his arrest in 1943 for his activities in the ‘Party of Action’. (Il ritorno alla ragione of 1946 consists of articles written during this period, developing the arguments of European liberalism (pp. vi–viii and preface to third edition (1943) of Europtan liberalism). In 1943 he became rector of Rome University and was minister of Education in the Bonomi administration (June–Dec. 1944). He died in Rome 29 Dec. 1948.

* This article is based on research funded by the E.S.R.C. under its Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Scheme. Its contents are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E.S.R.C. I am grateful to Raymond Plant, Quentin Skinner and Jonathan Steinberg for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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