the book's title to a 'counter history'. Otherwise, it is a history, whose subject matter alone remains to be specified: not liberal thought in its abstract purity. PDF | Domenico Lousurdo claims to have written a “counter history” that Losurdo argues that liberalism was never really about freedom or. Liberalism. A Counter-History. by Domenico Losurdo Translated by Gregory Elliott “A brilliant exercise in unmasking liberal pretensions.” – Financial Times.

Domenico Losurdo Liberalism A Counter-history Pdf

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Liberalism: A Counter-History (Italian: Controstoria del liberalismo) is a book by Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo, first published in English in lecture by Professor Domenico Losurdo on “Liberty and Slavery: The Professor's latest book “Liberalism: A Counter-History” as an important. Domenico Losurdo, Liberalism: A Counter-History (translated by Gregory Elliott),. London: Verso, ISBN 1 4 (cloth). There was a stage.

I cannot comment on the state of historical analysis in Italy where the author teaches , but the conclusion that supposedly liberal thinkers could also be slaveholders or support authoritarian governments and oppressive class relations is hardly new.

Exactly why we need another text to explain something that is already so well known is not clear. The second reason to avoid this text is that it is frustrating. The translation I am reviewing was published by Verso, a reputable publisher that has produced very good work.

Liberalism: A Counter-History

Liberalism will not be numbered among them. The text is repetitive as the author makes the same point often citing the same sources over and over again in chapter after chapter. The footnote references do not always distinguish between the words of a secondary source from whose work Losurdo draws information and the philosopher about whom he is speaking.

I am confused as to why neither the translator nor publisher corrected this problem.

Third, the text makes at best passing reference to gender. Feminist philosophers or political activists are not discussed with a couple of small exceptions , nor are the views of liberal thinkers on gender given detailed attention. Liberals supposedly believe in equality but we quickly discover that this is not true. Liberals supposedly support individual autonomy but yet again in other instances they stand completely behind the expansive power of the state.

At the same time, that vision was bound up with a vicious social hierarchy. Not only did the normative actors include slaveowners, but the slaveowners themselves led the individualist and libertarian movement.

In particular, Locke did not just pronounce on slavery as a social philosopher; in his capacity as a British official, he was complicit in the West Indian slave trade and the slave constitutions of the American colonies.

Thus, when the liberals asserted the autonomy of the individual against tyranny, and when they asserted the will of the majority, these in fact referred strictly to the gentry as political actors—i.

The other 80 percent was excluded and ripe for the plucking. If you take your stand in , say, and look forward, slavery and colonialism are not old evils in the process of being phased out. They are expanding enterprises. Slavery, colonialism, the dispossession of Native Americans, and most important, numerically the non-enfranchisement of women, did not persist because some copyist made a mistake in the Declaration of Independence.

These were deliberate omissions, and the locutions that seemed to preclude them are extraordinary illustrations that meaning is in the eye of the beholder. Losurdo tells us in Liberalism that Bentham said that the only man in France who actually believed the Declaration of the Rights of Man was Babeuf. If Bentham said that, it is extraordinarily piercing.

Babeuf was the founder of modern Communism. The classic liberal position abounds in subtleties that are curve balls for the interpreter: i Classic liberals wrote ringing denunciations of slavery on the grounds that a man cannot sell his autonomy, or voluntarily surrender his autonomy. Precisely what Locke said was impossible was in fact a key institution to the Texas economy until such time as Texas became part of the U.

Locke did supply a bold authorization for private property: he says twice that the sole purpose for which civil society exists is to protect private property.

In contrast, the liberal classics slip slavery under the door. But their reticence does not in the least mean that slavery was on the way out. Once we are clear on i - ii , we can see that the Dred Scott decision was not a mistake; it confirmed what had been custom since or The Dred Scott decision confirmed what the U.

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In the s, the Washington government was pro-slavery on balance. It was the endorsement of slavery by the Supreme Court decision that crystallized a decisive counter-tendency from Northern industry as we have learned to call it. If the Dred Scott decision is read as an explication of U. As we all know, Lincoln decried the Dred Scott decision and launched his political career by way of decrying it. Of course he decried the Dred Scott decision. Lincoln may have spoken abstractly of a withering away of slavery in his Senate campaign speech, but he never once objected to slavery in the slave states within the Union.

That there were slave states in the Union is well documented in history, but it is not taught because ideology needs perfect saints and perfect villains. The scope of the Emancipation Proclamation is deeply misrepresented by history as typically taught. Lincoln made it okay to say that a Supreme Court decision is plain damn wrong. Legally, the way to override the Supreme Court is to amend the Constitution.

But President Jackson had already repudiated the Supreme Court in in the matter of the Cherokees: Jackson overrode the decision with the force of the army.

So, when Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address that the U. The first U. Losurdo follows in the tradition of Marx and many other right-thinking academics in exalting Lincoln as an icon.

But what about that beacon of beacons, the Gettysburg Address? Read from a critical standpoint, it is filled with lies. It is much worse than the Declaration of Independence, as there had been almost a century of history illuminating the gap between libertarian phrases and institutional practice.

When Marx enthused over Lincoln, Marx totally forgot or did he? As I intimated, Losurdo cannot separate his derogation of republicanism from the rehabilitation of monarchy.

At any rate, the thesis that monarchy was more concerned about slavery than republics is already boldly stated in Adam Smith. That means the will of the massed gentry, i. But Losurdo embellishes Smith: He has Smith calling for a violent suppression of slavery.

While Smith makes his disapproval of slavery very clear, there are no calls for abolition anywhere in Smith.

In general, Smith is far more matter-of-fact, far more descriptive, than Losurdo. Losurdo has found instances in which classic liberals let slip what they were up to. Constant does say that political actors should be limited to men of property. Mandeville does say, in Fable of the Bees, Volume 1, that the poor should be denied education, to prevent them from getting above themselves. Smith does depreciate the intelligence of workmen.

But neither of the latter two examples is so incriminating in context. Tocqueville does call Jefferson a perfect democrat in chapter 13 of the first volume of Democracy in America.

The implication of these examples is that many early liberals were willing to write off eighty per cent of the population—and that reveals much about how they thought.

But the quote from Tocqueville is a throwaway line. Losurdo has a citation to a Tocqueville letter On Penology in which Tocqueville says that the worst criminals should be killed en masse.

Losurdo places this side-by-side with a letter in which Benjamin Franklin tells a physician that most of the people he is treating are not worth saving.

An exposé of classic liberalism? A reply to Domenico Losurdo

Putting it beside the Tocqueville remark about the worst criminals, Losurdo informs us that the liberals wanted a genocide of workmen. Losurdo is misusing his sources but, more to the point, the last thing the liberals wanted was a genocide of workmen.

The great problem for them was the assembly of a labor force, i.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.

As we all know, Lincoln decried the Dred Scott decision and launched his political career by way of decrying it. Allegiance to liberalism became a badge of legitimacy and any opposition to it began to be construed as a sign of political immaturity and indifference to human dignity. Despite unburying evidence for a potentially incisive reexamination of classical liberalism, Losurdo fails to marshal this evidence efficaciously, thus drawing politically questionable conclusions.

Social democracy may soften the shock—but it is a fragile remedy. For some time the logic of the system implied that slavery might be extended to the home country, and applied to vagrants, criminals and paupers as well as to servants and certain employees who could be bought and sold as assets alongside an enterprise such as a coal mine This was eventually decided against in a case, concerning an Englishman who brought his personal slave to England.

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