Società italiana per lo studio della storia contemporanea


Carteggio Croce-Calogero

Cristina Farnetti (a cura di)

Bologna-Napoli, il Mulino ? Istituto italiano per gli studi storici, pp. XLV-106 2004

This latest among the now-numerous volumes of B. Croce's correspondence illuminates his relationship with the generation of intellectuals that came of age during the fascist period, after he and G. Gentile had diverged on philosophical grounds, then split definitively over fascism itself. Having studied with Gentile at Rome in the mid-twenties, Guido Calogero (1904-1986) embraced Gentile's actualist philosophy, but he was also attracted to Croce's overall cultural program, which seemed better to encompass poetry and literature. The two corresponded for just over a quarter century, from 1926 to 1951; their carteggio includes ninety-two items, from brief notes on biglietti da visita to full-length letters. Croce was decidedly hostile as Calogero, like A. Omodeo and L. Russo at various points, sought to mediate, in the wake of the split over fascism, between the Crocean and Gentilian currents in contemporary Italian thought. When Calogero, in response to overtures from Germany and the Netherlands in the late 1920s, sought to present Italian idealism as a united front, Croce refused to be involved. There were no national schools in philosophy, he insisted; there was no such thing as ?Italian idealism? (no. 34). That itself he found sufficient objection, quite apart from his desire not to be associated with the Gentilian fascists. Croce's critique of Calogero's effort to fuse liberalism and socialism, first outlined in a 1940 manifesto, initiated the best-known phase of the interaction between the two thinkers. Counter to Calogero, Croce insisted that liberty does not presuppose some particular notion of socio-economic justice. The ensuing polemic foreshadowed the divergence between Croce's Liberal Party and the Partito d'Azione and helped undermine the moral force of the effort to rebuild on a secular but non-Marxist basis after fascism. Though it does not deepen our understanding of this dispute, this correspondence makes clear that it reverberated, still producing division and bitterness, even as late as July 1948. Croce and Calogero were sufficiently close to maintain a reasonably regular correspondence, yet their exchanges betray an element of mutual incomprehension that illuminates the texture of Italian intellectual life during this rich yet tortured period. As G. Sasso points out in his probing, 37 page introduction, Calogero never stressed his divergence from Gentile, as he could and should have. Croce, for his part, did not grasp why Calogero could see himself as at once an actualist and a critic of actualism, as a Crocean and a critic of Croceanism. Calogero sensed the common ground of Croce's and Gentile's thinking even as he worked toward his own reform of Hegelian logic and dialectic. Although Croce maintained a supportive and for the most part cordial relationship with the younger thinker, he continued to find Calogero too Gentilian to be worthy of serious intellectual engagement. He persisted in viewing as an irreparable philosophical split what had arguably been a political schism from within a common framework. Thus weakened, the notable tradition that he and Gentile had pioneered before the First World War ended up more easily marginalized in the decades that followed.

David D. Roberts