Carlo Cattaneo (1801-1869), Lombard philosopher and economist, liberal beyond federalism.
Riccardo Soliani  1, *@  , Enrico Ivaldi  2@  
1 : Università di Genova, Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche  (DISPO)  -  Site web
piazzale Emanuele Brignole, 2 -  Italie
2 : Università di Genova, Dipartimento di Economia  (DIEC)  -  Site web
via Francesco Vivaldi, 5 -  Italie
* : Auteur correspondant

Carlo Cattaneo (1801-1869), Lombard philosopher and economist, liberal beyond federalism.


Riccardo Soliani, Enrico Ivaldi


 Carlo Cattaneo, intellectual deeply interested in political economy, politics, philosophy, was a prominent character of Risorgimento, that is the political process that built Italy in the xix century. Considered by Luigi Einaudi as an Enciclopedico belonging to the last generation of the Italian Enlightenment, the Lombard Cattaneo had been working in several fields with sete insaziata ... di libera indagine (“insatiable thirst of free enquiry”), according to Ghisleri, Italian historian, who wrote in 1901. His liberalism, greatly appreciated by Luigi Einaudi and Norberto Bobbio (who defined his thought filosofia militante, that is “militant philosophy”), was not only a claim for free economic activity, but also (and overall) a philosophical attitude rooted in Diderot, and, earlier, Galileo and Bacone. Cattaneo is an open-minded philosopher and a real social scientist, who constantly looks at the natural and social reality with a profound belief in progress and deems human intelligence in its collective dimension (psicologia delle menti associate), the most important factor of economic and social development.

Economic development is based on the same principles which the progress of civilization and ideas is founded upon: liberty, volition, intelligence. A growing economy must be free from the constraints of administrative rules and tradition. Volition, intelligence and hard work allow accumulation, investment, technical progress and enhancement of infrastructures, and government must back up this push establishing a fair fiscal system, in a free trade system where property rights are sure. Then also agriculture will benefit of the huge investment needed to increase productivity, and modern entrepreneurship will spread even in the countryside.

Cattaneo is enlightened, because he believes in free human intelligence as the very basis of progress; is positivist, thanks to his trust in science and continuous claim for empirical verification of theories; is liberal, since he thinks that only liberty can feed human intelligence. At the same time, he is a man of Romanticism, with his confidence in the possibility of overcoming all hindrances through liberty and volition. As a true liberal, Cattaneo can hardly be classified in just one stream of thinking.

Our paper is divided into four parts. At the beginning (first paragraph), the historical contextualization, together with a short biographical sketch, puts the secular Cattaneo in comparison and contrast with different characters of Italian federalism, like the Catholic Rosmini Serbati and Gioberti, and allows to seize his attitude towards the moderate liberalism of Cavour, very far from him. In the second paragraph we deal with Cattaneo's philosophical and political approach, and, in the third one, with his economic thought, that can be summarized as a great claim for economic freedom in a federalist state. Finally, in the conclusion we put forward some considerations about the relationship between collective intelligence and volition: just liberty allows the rise of volition, which, on its turn, gives birth to the collective intelligence. Federalism, in Cattaneo's thought, is the best political way to ensure such a liberty.




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