Caesarism.  Caesar, Napoleon I, Napoleon III, Cromwell, etc.  Compile a catalog of historical events which have culminated in a great “heroic” personality.  It may be said that caesarism is an expression of a situation in which the forces in struggle are balanced in a catastrophic way, that is, balanced in a way that continuation of the struggle cannot but result in mutual destruction.  When the progressive force A fights the regressive force B, not only may it happen that A defeats B or that B defeats A; it may also happen that neither A nor B triumphs, but they bleed each other, and a third force C intervenes from the outside, subjecting to itself what remains of A and B.  In Italy, after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent, that is exactly what happened, as was the case in the ancient world with the barbarian invasion.

But caesarism — if it always expresses the solution as the “arbitration,” entrusted to a great personality, of a politico-historical situation characterized by a potentially catastrophic equilibrium of forces — has not always had the same historical significance.  Caesarism can be progressive or regressive, and the exact significance of each form of caesarism, in the final analysis, can be reconstructed only from concrete history, not from a sociological schema.

Antonio Gramsci, 1891-1937.  From Note sul Machiavelli, sulla politica e sullo Stato moderno.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at]

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