Alexander Billet It might seem strange to start an obituary of a seventy-seven-year-old by saying he was taken from us in his prime. But before Domenico Losurdo was struck down by a brain tumor, the Italian Marxist had been at the height of his powers. Just last year he published a sustained polemic against the pretensions of Western Marxism, following a work in which he took a critical look at projects for peace throughout history. 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. Ever keen to promote his thought at the international level, until shortly before his death he was working on a new chapter for the English version of his Antonio Gramsci: From Liberalism to Critical Communism.
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In particular, Losurdo has criticised a reactionary tendency among contemporary revisionist historians such as Nolte who traced the impetus behind the Holocaust to the excesses of the Russian Revolution and Furet who linked the Stalinist purges to a "disease" originating from the French Revolution. According to Losurdo, the intention of these revisionists is to eradicate the revolutionary tradition as their true motivations have little to do with the search for a greater understanding of the past, but rather he claims it lies in both the climate and ideological needs of the political classes and is most evident in the work of the English-speaking imperial revivalists such as Niall Ferguson and Paul Johnson.
His book War and Revolution provided a new perspective on the English , American , French and Russian revolutions, among other 20th-century revolutions. There are two types of despecification:  Political and moral despecification in which the exclusion is due to political or moral factors. Naturalistic despecification in which the exclusion is due to biological factors.
For Losurdo, the naturalistic despecification is qualitatively worse than the political-moral one. While the latter offers at least one escape through the change of ideology , this is not possible in the case of a naturalistic despecification since it is irreversible as it refers to biological factors that are in themselves unchangeable.
Losurdo stated that the comparisons he offers about this did not want to be a relativisation or a belittlement of the Holocaust, but that to consider the Jewish Holocaust as incomparable meant to lose the historical perspective and to forget about the Black Holocaust i.
In the first case, the Nazis imprisoned those whom they regarded and called Untermensch subhuman while in the second case in which he claimed only a part of the dissidents ended up to dissidents were locked up to be re-educated and not to be killed.
Despite being a practice to be condemned, Losurdo stated that "the prisoner in the Gulag is a potential "comrade" [the guard was required to call him this way] [ He also argued that British concentration camps and penal colonies were worse than any Gulag, accusing politicians such Winston Churchill and Harry S.
Truman of being guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity just like—if not worse—those attributed to Joseph Stalin. He also gave credit to one of the main accusations that were at the base of the bloody Stalinist repression against the opponents, i.
Liberalism: A Counter-History
Shelves: history , politics Liberalism was arguably born when the Netherlands gained freedom from Philip II of Spain and its wealthy commercial class took political control. While the Dutch celebrated their liberation from the shackles and restraints of the ancien regime and its mediaeval values, what they prized in particular was their freedom to engage without restraint in the creation of wealth through their own colonies and their hold over the slave trade of that time. The liberty they idealized and proclaimed was thus Liberalism was arguably born when the Netherlands gained freedom from Philip II of Spain and its wealthy commercial class took political control. The liberty they idealized and proclaimed was thus both very restrictive in its application and very paradoxical, in that it prioritised the lack of governmental restraint in order to maximise the power of those in control over their family, servants and slaves.
Summary[ edit ] In the book, Losurdo characterises the dominant narrative regarding liberalism as hagiography , representing a gradual process of the expansion of liberty to all people. Rather, Losurdo investigates not only "the conceptual developments, but also and primarily the political and social relations it found expression in" which made itself known through various contradictions. One such example is when black Americans lost many of their newfound rights as the end of the Reconstruction Era gave way to the rise of Jim Crow laws. According to Losurdo, liberalism lent itself to the foundation of Herrenvolk democracy , where one ethnic group had rights over other disenfranchised and exploited groups. Losurdo finds the early United States, a racial state with a clear difference in the rights afforded between whites and even free blacks , to have been one such master-race democracy. For instance, Peter Clarke wrote in the Financial Times that Liberalism: A Counter-History is "a brilliant exercise in unmasking liberal pretensions, surveying over three centuries with magisterial command of the sources".
Bralrajas Darwin did not invent the well established idea of evolution counter-hlstory he investigated scientific explanations for evolution, whereas Spencer investigated ideological racism with a spurious scientific glaze. Jan 31, John Victor rated it really liked it. Losurdo rejects this sort of view — he argues that liberalism cannot possibly be defined in these terms because, historically, it rode roughshod over these principles in relation to the treatment of slaves, colonial peoples and the poor. The late 17 th Century and 18 th Century, Losurdo points out quoting R. Losurdo was untroubled by treading on libera,ism but was sometimes tinged with contrarianism. In this definitive historical investigation, Italian counter-hisyory and philosopher Domenico Losurdo argues that from the outset liberalism, as a philosophical position and ideology, has been bound up with the most illiberal of policies: Indeed liberal definitions of liberalism are often more than faintly self-congratulatory — frequently, they consist of a list of Good Things that are taken to be the core, defining values and commitments of this political tradition.