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Study notes

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805−1872)

  • Levels: A Level, IB
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, IB

Along with Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II, Giuseppe Mazzini is best known for driving forward the unification of the Italian state.

As leader of the Italian revolutionaries, Mazzini shaped the idea that popular democracy could be formed within a republican state. Furthermore, Mazzini was an instrumental figure behind the development of European integration, offering a framework of ideas that would be implemented long after his death. Mazzini was an early advocate of a United States of Europe, claiming that it was the logical and inevitable conclusion of Italian unification.

Given his commitment to nationalism, Mazzini was strongly opposed to Marxism due to its doctrinaire stance on class struggle and social solidarity. He was also opposed to the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment. As with many other nationalist figures, he viewed the inherent individualism of liberal notion as contrary to the goal of creating a coherent national identity. He also opposed the rationalist basis of liberal ideas and the divisions caused by Protestantism; both of which stemmed from his own personal commitment to Catholicism. For him, patriotism is a duty and the Fatherland is “the home wherein God has placed us, among brothers and sisters linked to us by the family ties of a common religion, history and language.”

His worldview was shaped by a concept known as thought and action, in which both terms were joined together to create an independent Republic of Italy. According to Mazzini, every thought must be followed by action. Such an approach represents a rejection of intellectualism and the notion of divorcing theory from actual practice. For this alone, he would seem to epitomise nationalist beliefs and nationalism as an ideological movement.

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