Liberalism: A Counter-History (Italian: Controstoria del liberalismo) is a book by Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo. In the book, he examines the inner. Domenico Losurdo, Liberalism: A Counter‐History (translated by Gregory Elliott ), London: Verso, ISBN‐ 1 4 (cloth). Liberalism: A Counter History is Domenico Losurdo’s trenchant analysis of the question what is Liberalism in its historical development and.

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This, it is probably fair to say is the whole point of his theoretical endeavours.

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Where was liberal liberty and equality for slaves, he asks, and how was the individuality of vagrants and Native Americans respected? Definitely interesting because it details how liberalism emerged and how the main liberal intellectuals for the most part supported slavery and colonialism. Only once we have understood this can couunter-history start to resolve the seeming inconsistencies. That is one reason why there is so much of it.

Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo

At the same time, Losurdo is keen to stress the conflicts within liberalism and the emergence of a challenge simultaneously from without and within – the challenge of a radicalism which verged on socialism, a discordant liberalism from below which demanded the expansion of its sacred space and an end to its exclusions. Up From Liberalism Issue I was wondering what the book was about. In particular, this took the form of a piercing assault on liberal hypocrisy, most notably expressed in a work first published in Italian inthen translated into English by Verso in as Liberalism: For critics of liberalism, the book provides a useful compendium of the crimes of the liberal era and also of the more unpleasant things that liberal theorists have advocated and defended.

Jan 26, Aniruddh Mohan rated it it was amazing. About Dr Ed Rooksby: For this Counter History, as for his study of Democracy or Bonapartism forthcoming: You are commenting using your Twitter account. Losurdo characterizes the dominant narrative regarding liberalism as hagiographyrepresenting a gradual process of the expansion of liberty to all people. As useful as Losurdo’s arguments may have been to my undergraduate self, caught within a discipline hostile to socialism and materialism, there is the same frustration at not being able to go beyond it – at almost avoiding a socialist critique of liberalism on socialist terms.


He charts those hallowed saints of the contemporary right: The liberal view of individual liberty in itself implies equality. May 18, Paul rated it it was amazing.

Liberalism: A Counter-History

It’s a useful example to think about with other systems of domination libeealism seemingly restrict the powerful’s “freedom” but only in order to better dominate the oppressed. Thus the age of liberalism is characterised not merely by exclusion but also by a process of permanent revolution in which a series of social groups — slaves, women, workers — rise up to stake their claim to liberty and equality.

Surely, considering its publication date, the evangelical liberalism of neoconservatism could have been at least touched upon? France was not the only major geographical locus of this emerging radical tradition. This is quite a narrow intellectual history of liberalism, and at times the reliance on the great philosophers and, I should add, some rather out-of-date historians can begin to grate – there is little effort to interrogate the wider reception of these ideas by recourse to the writing of ‘ordinary’ liberals and their critics from below.

If so, what is all the guilt and embarrassment about? As an emeritus professor at the University of Urbino and president of the Associazione Marx XXI, deep into old age Losurdo maintained his globe-trotting activity of conferences and book presentations.

The proclaimed attachment is indeed a keenly felt one and the failure to live up to it is seen as a matter of real distress. Misery Index Issue Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Among the dominant strains of liberalism, he discerns the counter-currents of more radical positions, lost in the constitution of the modern world order. A Counter History, by Domenico Losurdo is a fascinating look at the beginnings of Liberalism and its relation to slavery.

For Burke, as for Locke, there was a natural order to human affairs. The liberalism which Losurdo discusses in the book is sometimes better known as classical liberalismthe political philosophy that celebrates individual liberty and recognizes property rights as opposed to more modern forms of social liberalism. Liberals in the 19th century therefore believed that hierarchal society was natural and good for those outside their community.

That is, it sees the human individual as more fundamental and more real, than society, and at the same time regards the individual as much more morally valuable than any collective entity.


However it goes beyond this fact by showing how and why they did so and what kinds of intellectual assumptions were embedded in liberalism that allowed these contradictions to emerge if they are even contradictions. This sort of bad conscience on the part of liberals is inexplicable if exclusion really is the central commitment at the heart of liberalism.

This book isn’t some eye opener for me, because I knew a lot of the things authors wrote. Some of the most damning passages and quotations that Losurdo uses to illustrate the dark history of liberalism are gathered from figures probably better categorised as conservative than as liberal — Calhoun, for example. It is here that class relations come into play. This, needless to say, means that a great deal of liberal thought is ignored altogether.

He did not simply explain their crimes and errors which he freely admitted as a response to the war climate in which they emerged. In the book, he examines the inner contradictions of the highly influential liberal political tradition.

Kant for example is surely a major figure in liberal philosophy. Email required Address never made public.

Explores the extremely dark history of many traditionally liberal regimes, whose crimes were similar in scale and scope to that of the totalitarian abortions of the twentieth century-but often viewed as less terrible for the simple fact that far less written records from the victims still exist.

From deportation of criminals — which amounted to a form of penal slavery — assumed major proportions.

Liberalism: A Counter-History – Wikipedia

Losurdo argues that the liberal tradition has often excused and even celebrated racismslaveryexploitation and genocide. By the late 19 th Century liberalism had split into two major factions.

But secondly, more importantly, valuing the merits of the book is easy: I would definitely recommend this book to those interested in political history, or those looking for a deeper understanding of Liberalism and its uses, especially relating to slavery.