The Moses of Italian Unity: Mazzini and Nationalism as Political Religion

Simon Levis Sullam

in Giuseppe Mazzini and the Globalization of Democratic Nationalism, 1830-1920

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264317
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734472 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Moses of Italian Unity: Mazzini and Nationalism as Political Religion

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter examines the nature of Mazzini's nationalism by analysing it as a ‘political religion’: a system of myths, symbols, and rituals the subordinates the collectivity to the supreme entity of the nation. It studies Mazzinian nationalism both on the level of content – looking at how Mazzini defines the genesis of the nation – and on the level of form, looking at the ‘style’ of Mazzini's political thought. The chapter shows that this style is symbolic and ritual, based on single words that operate as symbols and are ritually repeated for the captivation of the followers. Finally, it explores the boundaries of Mazzini's liberalism, showing the limits of his republicanism and his paternalistic conception of democracy as ‘education’.

Keywords: nationalism; political religion; nation; political thought; liberalism; republicanism; democracy; education

Chapter.  8834 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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