ILYA SOMIN is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and the study of popular political participation and its implications for constitutional democracy.
Born in Sannicandro di Bari, Losurdo obtained his doctorate in 1963 from the University of Urbino under the guidance of Pasquale Salvucci with a thesis on Johann Karl Rodbertus. During the sixties, he was radicalized and belonged to a small group of Italian communists which sided with the People's Republic of China in the Sino-Soviet split. Losurdo hailed the Cultural Revolution which was launched in 1966 by Mao Zedong in an attempt to purge Chinese society of capitalist and traditionalist elements and which claimed up to 20 million lives. Losurdo was director of the Institute of Philosophical and Pedagogical Sciences at the University of Urbino, where he taught history of philosophy as dean at the Faculty of Educational Sciences. From 1988, Losurdo was president of the Hegelian International Association Hegel-Marx for Dialectical Thought. Losurdo was also a member of the Leibniz Society of Sciences in Berlin (an association in the tradition of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Prussian Academy of Sciences) as well as director of the Marx XXI political-cultural association. Losurdo died on 28 June 2018 at the age of 76 due to brain cancer.
From communist militancy, the condemnation of American imperialism, and the study of the African-American and Native American question, Losurdo was also a participant in national and international politics. Historian David Broder described Losurdo as \"already among the most renowned Italian Marxists at the international level, as a richly partisan historian of philosophy ... .\" Philosopher Daniel Tutt described Losurdo as \"a renowned Marxist historian and philosopher\" who \"pioneered a distinctive method of historiography and intellectual history.\" Tutt wrote \"Losurdo made his scholarly mark in philosophical works as well as historical studies of important thinkers from John Locke and Hannah Arendt, to biographical and historical studies of Joseph Stalin. His scholarship on Hegel and modernity is considered an exemplary contribution to Hegel scholarship and he has published widely on topics such as conceptions of class struggle throughout history and the evolution of nonviolence in modern political life.\"
A Hegelian and Marxist philosopher as well as historian, Losurdo was described as a noncomformist, an heterodox Marxist, and a communist militant. His work ranged from contributions to the study of Kantian philosophy (the so-called self-censorship of Immanuel Kant and his political nicodemism) and the revaluation of classical German idealism, especially by G. W. F. Hegel, in an attempt to re-propose the legacy in the wake of György Lukács in particular, as well as the reaffirmation of the interpretation of German and non-German Marxism (Antonio Gramsci and the brothers Bertrando and Silvio Spaventa), with incursions into the sphere of Nietzschean thought (the reading of a radical aristocratic Friedrich Nietzsche) and Heideggerian thought, in particular the question of Martin Heidegger's adhesion to Nazism.
Losurdo turned his attention to the political history of modern German philosophy from Kant to Karl Marx and the debate that developed in Germany in the second half of the 19th and in the 20th century as well as a reinterpretation of the tradition of liberalism, in particular starting from the criticism and accusations of hypocrisy addressed to John Locke for his financial participation in the Atlantic slave trade. Taking up what Arendt stated in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Losurdo argued that the 20th century's true original sin was the New Imperialism in the form of colonial empire of the late 19th century, where totalitarianism and internment manifested for the first time. Diego Pautasso wrote that after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Losurdo \"devoted himself to four areas of research: 1) critique of liberalism and the fight against the belief that liberals they were at the forefront of democratic struggles; 2) balance of socialist experiences (USSR, China); 3) criticism of colonialism, imperialism and 'the various forms of subjugation of peoples to Washington and its allies'; 4) the critique of the contemporary left, in particular of 'Western Marxism', which would have 'neglected the great problems of its time', abandoned the 'class struggle and the struggle against imperialism' and embraced 'the narratives of globalization.'\"
For Losurdo, naturalistic despecification is qualitatively worse than the political-moral. While the latter offers at least one escape through the change of ideology, this is not possible in the case of naturalistic despecification since it is irreversible because it refers to biological factors that are in themselves unchangeable. Unlike many other thinkers, Losurdo thought that the Holocaust of the Jewish people is not incomparable, though he was willing to admit its tragic specificity. Losurdo stated that the comparisons he offers about this did not seek to be a relativisation or a belittlement of the Holocaust, but that to consider the Jewish Holocaust as incomparable meant to lose historical perspective and to overlook the Black Holocaust (i.e. the genocide of black people) or the American Holocaust (i.e. the genocide of Native Americans in the United States through the continued deportation to the west with the Indian removal and diffusion of smallpox), as well as other mass exterminations such as the Armenian genocide.
Losurdo was a strong critic of the equation of Nazism and communism, made by scholars like François Furet and Ernst Nolte but also by Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper. Similarly, Losurdo criticized the concept of a Red Holocaust. He argued that in the Nazi concentration camps there was an explicit homicidal intention because the Jew who entered one was destined not to get out of it (as there is a naturalistic despecification) while in the Gulag there was not (as it is political-moral despecification). In the first case, the Nazis imprisoned those whom they regarded as and called Untermensch (subhuman), while in the second case (in which, he claimed, only a part of the dissidents ended up) 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] ... and after 1937 [the beginning of the two year long Great Purge following the murder of Sergey Kirov] he is ... a potential 'citizen.'\"
Autophobia was a concept developed by Losurdo to describe how sometimes victims tend to appropriate the point of view of their oppressors and begin to despise and hate themselves. The concept of autophobia was primarily developed within the framework of the study of Jewish history and the history of slavery. Losurdo extended this concept to social classes and political parties that have suffered defeat. Losurdo stated his belief that communists suffer from autophobia, defined as a fear of themselves and their own history, a pathological problem that must be faced, unlike healthy self-criticism.
Close first to the Italian Communist Party, then to the Communist Refoundation Party, and finally to the Party of Italian Communists, confluited in the Communist Party of Italy and in the Italian Communist Party, of which he was a member, Losurdo was also director of the Marx XXI political-cultural association.
In Aristocratic Rebel (2002), Losurdo criticized much of Nietzschean thought in the contemporary world, in particular left-Nietzscheanism, whose influence on the left was a major problem because \"it hollows out rationalist-oriented socialist thought and praxis and it often leads to an abandoning of universalism in favor of 'spiritual' interpretations of political struggle.\" This critique came from the application of Nietzsche by Italian leftists such as Giorgio Colli and Gianni Vattimo, although left-Nietzscheanism is beyond just that setting.
Tutt wrote \"[o]ne must read Losurdo's Aristocratic Rebel by staying true to his own method, that is, the political context of Losurdo's debates and polemics on the Italian left shape much of his critiques of Nietzschean thought in the contemporary world, especially left-Nietzscheanism.\" Tutt wrote \"[w]hile Losurdo's comments on contemporary left-Nietzscheanism are brief, the convincing portrait of Nietzsche the book details generate ample material by which a new generation of Marxist philosophers and historians can begin to re-visit Nietzsche and the tradition of left-Nietzscheanism in particular.\"
In Liberalism: A Counter-History (2005), first published in English in 2011, Losurdo argued that while purporting to emphasise the importance of individual liberty, liberalism has long been marked by its exclusion of people from these rights, resulting in racism, slavery, and genocide. Losurdo asserted that the origins of Nazism are to be found in what he views as colonialist and imperialist policies of the Western world. Losurdo examined the intellectual and political positions of intellectuals on modernity. In his view, Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel were the greatest thinkers of modernity, while Friedrich Nietzsche was its greatest critic.
In Stalin: History and Critique of A Black Legend (2008), Losurdo stimulated a debate about Joseph Stalin, about whom he claimed is built a kind of black legend intended to discredit the whole of communism. Opposed to the comparison of Nazism and Stalinism, Losurdo criticized the concept of totalitarianism, especially in the works of Hannah Arendt, François Furet, Karl Popper, and Ernst Nolte, among others. Losurdo argued that totalitarianism was a polysemic concept with origins in Christian theology and that applying it to the political sphere required an operation of abstract schematism which makes use of isolated elements of historical reality to place Nazi Germany and other fascist regimes, along with the Soviet Union and other socialist states, in the dock together, serving the anti-communism of Cold War-era intellectuals rather than reflecting intellectual research. 59ce067264