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New Left Review 107, September-October 2017


David Broder

EASTERN LIGHT ON WESTERN MARXISM

The subtitle of Domenico Losurdo’s book promises an investigation into ‘how Western Marxism was born, how it died and how it can be reborn’. [1] Domenico Losurdo, Il marxismo occidentale: Come nacque, come morì, come può rinascere, Editori Laterza: Bari 2017, €20, paperback 220 pp, 978 8 85812 747 6 Leafing through its pages, however, we would be hard pressed to find any trace of calls for Western Marxism’s ‘rebirth’. Losurdo prefers to assume the stance of a doctor faced with an ailing patient, telling the worried relatives why they may as well turn off the life support. The book’s combative tone will come as no surprise to readers of Losurdo’s work so far available in English. This is a library that extends from a critique of Heidegger and the Ideology of War (2001) through Hegel and the Freedom of the Moderns (2004), to Liberalism: A Counter-History (2011), War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century (2014) and Non-Violence: A History Beyond the Myth (2017), with an intellectual biography of Nietzsche: The Aristocratic Rebel due to appear early next year. These form only a small part of Losurdo’s prodigious output in his native language, which comprises some thirty-five books and numerous co-authored volumes, making him one of the most prolific Italian thinkers of his generation. Holder of a chair in the history of philosophy at Urbino, few have rivalled his combination of energy and erudition. Born in 1941 near Bari, he belongs to the generation radicalized in the sixties, when he was a youthful militant in the small wing of Italian communism that rallied to Chinese positions in the Sino-Soviet dispute and hailed the Cultural Revolution, before splitting into different groups that faded away after the death of Mao in 1976. In the eighties he was a contributor to the pages of the pci’s daily l’Unità, and became a member of the party. When it abandoned its name in 1991, he threw in his lot with those who left it to create Rifondazione Comunista, in turn reduced to a wraith after its participation in the Prodi government of 2006–08. Since 2016 he has joined the attempt to recreate a second pci, under the party’s old name, an organization currently claiming some 12,000 members.

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