A Cosmopolitanism of Nations: Giuseppe Mazzini's Writings on Democracy, Nation Building, and International Relations


This anthology gathers Giuseppe Mazzini's most important essays on democracy, nation building, and international relations, including some that have never before been translated into English. These neglected writings remind us why Mazzini was one of the most influential political thinkers of the nineteenth century—and why there is still great benefit to be derived from a careful analysis of what he had to say. Mazzini (1805-1872) is best known today as the inspirational leader of the Italian Risorgimento. But, as...

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This anthology gathers Giuseppe Mazzini's most important essays on democracy, nation building, and international relations, including some that have never before been translated into English. These neglected writings remind us why Mazzini was one of the most influential political thinkers of the nineteenth century—and why there is still great benefit to be derived from a careful analysis of what he had to say. Mazzini (1805-1872) is best known today as the inspirational leader of the Italian Risorgimento. But, as this book demonstrates, he also made a vital contribution to the development of modern democratic and liberal internationalist thought. In fact, Stefano Recchia and Nadia Urbinati make the case that Mazzini ought to be recognized as the founding figure of what has come to be known as liberal Wilsonianism.

The writings collected here show how Mazzini developed a sophisticated theory of democratic nation building—one that illustrates why democracy cannot be successfully imposed through military intervention from the outside. He also speculated, much more explicitly than Immanuel Kant, about how popular participation and self-rule within independent nation-states might result in lasting peace among democracies. In short, Mazzini believed that universal aspirations toward human freedom, equality, and international peace could best be realized through independent nation-states with homegrown democratic institutions. He thus envisioned what one might today call a genuine cosmopolitanism of nations.

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Editorial Reviews

Ethics & International Affairs
[A]n inspiring contribution to the current debates on global justice, humanitarian intervention, and secession.
— Daniel Voelsen
Ethics & International Affairs - Daniel Voelsen
[A]n inspiring contribution to the current debates on global justice, humanitarian intervention, and secession.
From the Publisher
"[A]n inspiring contribution to the current debates on global justice, humanitarian intervention, and secession."—Daniel Voelsen, Ethics & International Affairs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691136110
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/17/2009
  • Pages: 260
  • Sales rank: 1,097,894
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stefano Recchia is a PhD candidate in political science at Columbia University. Nadia Urbinati is the Nell and Herbert M. Singer Professor of Contemporary Civilization and Professor of Political Theory at Columbia.

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A Cosmopolitanism of Nations



Copyright © 2009 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13611-0

Chapter One

Manifesto of Young Italy (1831)

Too much time has hitherto been spent in words among us, too little in acts. Were we simply to consider the suggestions of our individual tendencies, silence would appear the fittest reply to undeserved calumny and overwhelming misfortune; the silence of the indignant soul burning for the moment of solemn justification. But in consideration of the actual state of things and the desire expressed by our Italian brothers, we feel it a duty to disregard our individual inclinations for the sake of the general good. We feel it urgent to speak out frankly and freely, addressing some words of severe truth to our fellow countrymen and to the peoples who have witnessed our misfortune.

Great revolutions are the work of principles rather than of bayonets. They are first achieved in the moral, and then in the material sphere. Bayonets are truly powerful only when they assert or maintain a right. Now, the rights and duties of society spring from a profound moral sense that has taken root in the majority. Blind, brute force may create victors, victims, and martyrs, but the triumph of force always results in tyranny if it is achieved in antagonism to the will of the majority. Only the diffusion and propagation of principles among the peoples makes their right to liberty manifest. By creating the desire and need of liberty, it invests mere force with the vigor and justice of law.

There is only one truth. But the principles of which it is composed are manifold. The human intellect cannot embrace them all at once; and even after it has comprehended them, it cannot organize and combine them all in a single intelligible and absolute form. Men of great genius who are also endowed with a large heart sow the seeds of a new degree of progress in the world. But those seeds bear fruit only after many years and through the labors of many men. The education of humanity does not proceed by fits and starts. The beliefs of humanity are the result of a long and patient application of principles, the study of details, and related attempts to identify the causes of different facts and events.

Therefore a journal appears to be the method of popular instruction most in harmony with the impatient rapidity and multiplicity of events in our present day. It will be a gradual, successive, and progressive enterprise of wide and vast proportions; the work of many men who share the same goal. It will reject no fact but rather observe them all in their true order and various bearings, tracing in each the action of the immutable first principles of things.

In Italy, as in every country aspiring toward a new life, there is a clash of opposing elements, of passions assuming a variety of forms, and of desires tending toward one sole aim, although through almost infinite modifications. There are many men in Italy who are full of indignant hatred of the foreigner, who shout for liberty simply because it is the foreigner who withholds it. There are others who have at heart the unification of Italy before anything else and would gladly unite her divided children under any strong will, whether of a native or foreign tyrant. Others again are fearful of all violent upheavals; they doubt the possibility of controlling the sudden shock of private interests and the jealousies of different provinces, and thus they shrink from the idea of absolute union and are ready to accept any new territorial organization that diminishes the number of sections into which the country is currently divided.

Few appear to understand that any true progress will be fatally impossible in Italy, until every effort at emancipation shall proceed along the three inseparable bases of unity, liberty, and independence. But the number of those who do understand this is increasing daily, and this conviction will rapidly absorb every other variety of opinion. Love of country, abhorrence of Austria, and a burning desire to throw off her yoke, are now universally diffused passions. There will no longer be compromises inculcated by fear. Long-held misleading notions of tactics and diplomacy will be abandoned, vanishing before the authority of the national will. There will be a decisive struggle between tyranny, driven to its final and most desperate resistance, and those bravely resolved to dare its overthrow.

The question as to the means by which to reach our aim, and convert the insurrection into a lasting and fruitful victory, is by no means simple. there is a class of men, endowed with civic ability and influence, who imagine that revolutions are to be conducted with diplomatic caution and reserve, rather than with the energy of an irrevocable faith and will. They accept our principles but reject their consequences; they shrink from extreme remedies to extreme evils; and they believe that the peoples can be led to liberty by adopting the same cunning and artifice of the tyrants who enslave them. Born and educated at a time when the conscience of a free man was a thing almost unknown in Italy, they have no faith in the power of a people rising in the name of their rights, their past glories, and their very existence. They have no faith in enthusiasm, nor indeed in anything whatever beyond the calculations of that diplomacy by which we have a thousand times been bought and sold, and the foreign bayonets by which we have been a thousand times betrayed.

They know nothing of the elements of regeneration that have been fermenting for the last half century in Italy; they know nothing of that yearning for betterment that our masses desire from the deepest of their hearts at the present day. They do not understand that, after many centuries of slavery, a nation can only be regenerated through virtue, or through death. They do not understand that 26 million men, made strong by their pursuit of a good cause and by an inflexible will, are practically invincible. They do not believe in the possibility of uniting the masses behind a single aim and purpose. But have they ever earnestly attempted this? Have they shown themselves ready to die for this? Have they ever proclaimed an Italian crusade? Have they ever taught the people that there is but one path to salvation, that a movement made in their cause must be upheld and sustained by themselves, that war is inevitable-a desperate and determined war that knows no truce save in victory or the grave? No; they have either stood aloof, dismayed by the greatness of the enterprise, or advanced doubtfully and timidly, as if the glorious path they trod were the path of illegality or crime.

They deluded the people by teaching them to hope in the observance of principles inferred from the records of diplomatic congresses or ministerial cabinets; they extinguished the ardor of those ready for fruitful sacrifice by promising that foreign aid would be forthcoming soon; and they wasted the time that should have been wholly devoted to forceful action or battle in inertia. Afterward, when deceived in their calculations and betrayed by diplomacy, with the enemy at their gates and terror in their hearts, when they could only have expiated their wrongdoing by honorably dying at their post, they shrank even from that and fled. Now, they deny all power of faith in the nation-they who never sought to arouse it by their example-and scoff at the enthusiasm they extinguished by their cowardice and hesitation. Peace be with them, for their errors sprang from weakness rather than baseness. But what right do they have to assume the leadership of an enterprise they cannot even grasp in its vastness and unity?

In the progress of revolutions, every error committed serves as a step toward the truth. Recent events have been a better lesson to the rising generation than whole volumes of theory. Indeed, we affirm that the events of 1821 have consummated and concluded the separation of Young Italy from the men of the past. Perhaps this most recent example, where the solemn oath sworn over the corpses of seven thousand of their countrymen ultimately resulted in infamy and delusion, was needed to convince the Italians that God and fortune protect the brave, that victory lies at the point of a sword and not in the artifices of protocols.

Perhaps the lessons of ten centuries and the curses of their vanquished fathers were insufficient to convince the people that they may not look for liberty at the hands of the foreigner. But now, in this nineteenth century, Italy knows that unity of enterprise is a condition without which there is no salvation, that every true revolution is a declaration of war unto death between two opposing principles, that the fate of Italy must be decided on the plains of Lombardy.

Italy knows that there is no true war without the masses. The secret of raising the masses lies in the hands of those who show themselves ready to fight and promise to lead the people to victory. New circumstances call for new men-men untrammeled by old habits and systems, their souls free from petty interests or greed and moved by the Idea alone. Italy knows all this, and it knows that the secret of power is faith, that true virtue is sacrifice, and true policy to prove oneself strong.

Young Italy knows these things. It feels the greatness of its mission and will fulfill it. We swear it by the thousands of victims that have fallen over the last ten years, and who have shown that persecutions do not crush but rather fortify conviction. We swear it by the human soul that aspires to progress, by the youthful combatants of Rimini, by the blood of the martyrs of Modena. There is a religious faith that transpires from that blood. No power can destroy the seed of liberty once it has begun to grow in the blood of brave men. Today our religion is still that of martyrdom; tomorrow it will be the religion of victory.

And for us, the young-for all those of us who share the same creed-it is a duty to further the sacred cause by all available means. Since present circumstances make the use of arms impossible, we will write. The ideas and aspirations now scattered and disseminated among our ranks need to be organized into a system. This new and powerful element of life, which is leading young Italy toward her regeneration, needs to be purified from every servile habit and every unworthy affection.

And we will undertake this task, with the help of the Italians. We will strive to make ourselves the true interpreters of the various desires, sufferings, and aspirations that constitute Italy in the nineteenth century. It is our intention to publish, in a specific form and under certain conditions, a series of writings directed toward this goal. Those writings will be governed by the principles we have indicated.

We shall not abstain from dealing with philosophical or literary subjects. Unity is the first law of the mind. The reformation of a people rests on no certain foundation, unless it is based on agreement in religious belief and on the harmonious union of the entire sum of human faculties. the role of literature, viewed as a moral priesthood, is to give form and expression to the principles of truth; as such, it is a powerful engine of civilization.

Italy is our chief object. Hence, we shall not deal with foreign affairs or events elsewhere in Europe, except insofar as it may be useful to educate the Italians, or to heap infamy on the oppressors of mankind, and to strengthen those feelings of sympathy that should unite the freemen of all nations in a brotherly bond of hope and action.

There is a voice that loudly tells us: the religion of humanity is love. We certainly know that whenever two hearts beat with the same pulse and two souls commune in virtue, there is a country. Nor will we deny the noblest aspiration of our epoch, the aspiration toward the universal association of good men. But we must not forget the blood that is still flowing from the wounds caused by trust in the foreigner. The last cries of those who were betrayed still lie between us and the nations that have sold, neglected, or despised us. Pardon is a virtue that only the victorious can afford. And love demands equality, both of power and esteem.

We reject both the assistance and the pity of foreign nations. But we will help to enlighten the European mind by showing how Italians really are: neither blind nor cowardly, but merely unfortunate. Thus we will lay the foundations of future international friendship based on mutual esteem.

Italy is little known abroad. Vanity, thoughtlessness, and the necessity felt by other nations of seeking excuses for crimes committed toward her have all contributed to misrepresent facts, passions, habits, and customs. Now we will uncover our wounds. We will show to foreign nations our blood being spilled as the price of that peace [the Vienna settlement of 1815] for which we have been sacrificed by the fears of diplomats. We will proclaim the duties of other nations toward us and unveil the falsehoods by which we have been overcome.

We will drag forth from the prisons and the darkness of despotism documentary evidence of the wrongs committed against us, of our sorrows, and our virtues. We will descend into the dust of our graves and display to the eyes of foreign nations the bones of our martyrs and the names of our unknown great men, mute witnesses of our sufferings, our steadfastness, and their guilty indifference. A cry of fearful anguish emerges from those Italian ruins on which Europe gazes in cold indifference, forgetful that they have twice shed the light of liberty and civilization on her. We listen to that cry, and we will repeat it to Europe until she learns the greatness of the wrong that has been committed thus far. We will tell the peoples: such are the souls you have bought and sold; such is the land you have condemned to isolation and eternal slavery.

Chapter Two

On the Superiority of representative Government (1832)

Ora e sempre. Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra. [Now and forever. Do what you must, and whatever is possible shall be accomplished.]

Our newspaper, Giovine Italia [Young Italy], has now been in existence for more than three months. We thus feel the need to look back at what we have accomplished and at the debates that our writings have stimulated among those Italians who desire an improvement of their country's conditions. In addition, we feel the need to respond once and for all to some objections that have been raised against us. We want to state the principles that govern our work and the intentions that guide us in the choice of our means, so that we can quickly get back on track, free from any worries that our doctrine may be misinterpreted, and with no other care but the future, our consistency, and victory. We want to identify our friends and our enemies alike, and they should get to know us in turn....

Strength in political matters results from the concentration of homogenous elements and forces toward a single purpose; it cannot result from the merely temporary agreement of many heterogeneous agents that lack any harmony among them. In other words: strength is measured by the level of cohesion, much more than by number or size....

The axiom that guided Napoleon to victory, and Alexander the Great before him, was to concentrate the greatest number of forces on a single goal. and this is an inescapable law for anybody who attempts a revolution. During great campaigns of military conquest, a sense of unity can be instilled by a single man. But during great revolutions, it can only descend from a principle, which needs to be clear, certain, and sensible. Now, strictly speaking, of course, the liberty to which we aspire is not a principle, but rather that state in which a people can develop their own principle. Liberty is not itself an end, but rather a means to achieve it. The question, then, is: how can we achieve and organize the means, or even just fight openly for it, without actually knowing the end itself?

This extremely simple thought leads us to the central political question: How to coordinate the means toward a given end? Different ends require different means. Whoever wants to set liberty on a constitutional throne had better proceed by a different avenue than whoever wants to establish it on republican foundations. A people aspiring only to gain independence from foreign rule will be able to take advantage of several elements that will be precluded to other peoples, who seek to gain both independence and liberty [i.e., democratic government] at once. and a different principle necessarily produces different consequences: the history of revolutions provides us with ample evidence of this, and it is the only maxim by which to directly judge political events and their causes.


Excerpted from A Cosmopolitanism of Nations Copyright © 2009 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Giuseppe Mazzini's International Political Thought 1

Part One: Democracy and the Nation: A Republican Creed 31
Chapter One: Manifesto of Young Italy (1831) 33
Chapter Two: On the Superiority of Representative Government (1832) 39
Chapter Three: Three Essays on Cosmopolitan Ideals and National Sentiment 53
I. Humanity and Country (1836) 53
II. Nationality and Cosmopolitanism (1847) 57
III. Nationalism and Nationality (1871) 62
Chapter Four: In Defense of Democracy: A Reply to Mr. Guizot (1839) 66
Chapter Five: On the Duties of Man (1841-60) 80

Part Two: National Insurrection and Democratic Revolution 109
Chapter Six: Rules for the Conduct of Guerrilla Bands (1832) 111
Chapter Seven: Toward a Holy Alliance of the Peoples (1849) 117
Chapter Eight: From a Revolutionary Alliance to the United States of Europe (1850) 132
Chapter Nine: Against the Foreign Imposition of Domestic Institutions (1851) 136
Chapter Ten: To the Patriots of Serbia and Hungary (1863) 141
Chapter Eleven: Letter to a Polish Patriot (1863) 143
Chapter Twelve: For a Truly National War (1866) 146
Chapter Thirteen: Neither Pacifism nor Terror: Considerations on the Paris Commune and the French National Assembly (1871) 153

Part Three: International Politics, Military Intervention, and a New World Order 167
Chapter Fourteen: On Publicity in Foreign Affairs (1835) 169
Chapter Fifteen: Foreign Despotism to Civilize a People? Italy, Austria, and the Pope (1845) 178
Chapter Sixteen: The European Question: Foreign Intervention and National Self-Determination (1847) 193
Chapter Seventeen: On Public Opinion and England's International Leadership (1847) 199
Chapter Eighteen: Concerning the Fall of the Roman Republic (1849) 208
Chapter Nineteen: On Nonintervention (1851) 213
Chapter Twenty: America as a Leading Nation in the Cause of Liberty (1865) 219
Chapter Twenty-One: To Our Friends in the United States (1865) 222
Chapter Twenty-Two: Principles of International Politics (1871) 224
Index 241

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2009

    Mazzini the first liberal Wilsonian

    A wonderful collection of essays by one of the great modern political thinkers. I was surprised to discover how relevant Mazzini's essays on democracy, international relations, and his liberal critique of foreign-imposed "regime change" still appear from a contemporary standpoint. The editors' introduction is very informative and clear. The editors have also usefully grouped Mazzini's writings into three sections: first, representative democracy and universal suffrage, followed by nation-building and democratic revolution, and finally international relations and intervention. The translations are excellent and render Mazzini's writings in clear contemporary prose. A must-read for international political theorists, historians of political thought, and scholars of the Italian Risorgimento. But this should more generally be of interest to all those who want to better understand the origins of liberal Wilsonianism as a political ideology that continues to influence U.S. foreign policy today.

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