Mazzini: A Life for the Religion of Politics

Mazzini: A Life for the Religion of Politics

Mazzini: A Life for the Religion of Politics

Mazzini: A Life for the Religion of Politics

Synopsis

This full-length biography of 19th-century Italian patriot and revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini, arguably the key figure in Italian unification, explores the relationship between the person and the ideas. Sarti presents a Mazzini who anticipated many issues of our times, including the usefulness and limitations of national states in the international community, the need to integrate the masses in society, and to balance individual freedom with social duties and obligations.

Excerpt

Giuseppe Mazzini's life is part of the history of the Risorgimento, the movement that led Italy to national independence and unity. Born in 1805 when the ideals of independence and unity were shared by few Italians, Mazzini took the lead in propagating the national idea and helped it to succeed. He lived long enough to see Rome become the national capital in 1870, an event that brought down the curtain on the Risorgimento and concluded Mazzini's political mission; he died eighteen months later, in March of 1872. His disappointment that Italy was unified as a monarchy rather than as the republic of his dreams does not change the objective reality that he was on history's winning side as a "prophet of nationalism." One reason for studying him is that winners demand attention. Another reason is that he won grudgingly, posing as a victim of his times. The victor/victim complex is a challenge to the biographer.

Biographers of Mazzini face many other questions. How does Mazzini the patriot relate to Mazzini the humanitarian, or the man of peace to the revolutionist, or the educator to the conspirator? The revolution envisaged by Mazzini respected no boundaries. Workers, women, peasants, serfs, and slaves were to be among its beneficiaries, but the Mazzinian revolution did not exclude the better-off people, whose grievances were of a different order. He was proud to be called a patriot, but refused the label of nationalist, because nationalism implied exclusive concern for the interests of one's nation. When he lost faith in Italy's ability to take the initiative, he looked elsewhere, to the Slavs of eastern . . .

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