Michele Cento

Liberalism as a «Historiographical Operation». Nitti, Gobetti, and the Broken Thread of the Liberal Revolution

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The essay considers the two distinct visions of «liberal revolution» that Nitti in the late XIX century, and Gobetti in the 1920s elaborated in order to meet the demand of the subordinate classes for change and democratization. Those visions were based on two distinct «historiographical operations» aimed at taking issue with the history and political culture of liberal Italy. The essay reads those «historiographical operations» as parts of political strategies intended to bring down the old Italian liberalism and give life to a new one. Despite the common polemical objective, however, Nitti’s evolutionism and Gobetti’s voluntarism embodied two different views of history and social change. This determined a political divergence among them and opened up a cleavage in Italian liberal ideology, unlike what was happening in the Atlantic world. The missed convergence affected and weakened the development of Italian liberalism in the face of fascism.


  • Francesco Saverio Nitti
  • Piero Gobetti
  • Liberalism
  • Liberal Revolution


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