Resisting Destiny
  • Michele Chiaruzzi
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan History of International Thought book series (PMHIT)


In a crucial passage, Lucretius intimates, “Do you not then now see that, albeit a force outside pushes many men and constrains them often to go forward against their will and to be hurried away headlong, yet there is something in our breast, which can fight against it and withstand it?”1 The conclusion of “Fortune’s Banter” also invokes the human capacity to withstand an intangible “vis extern,” a riotous external force. Martin Wight leaves the last word to John Ball the rebel, a narrative voice for the revolutionary William Morris [49].2 He finally finds, even in defeat, a victory as possible as unpredictable, an inexplicable, and perhaps even futile, victory. He seems to call out for a quiet uprising against that irony etched in politics as an indelible stigma. It is not a call nurtured by mere hope, “a theological and not political virtue.”3 It is, instead, a call nurtured by the faith in a human will that does not carry a certain future and has only an uncertain beginning. It can be said with the words of a writer, a true rebel: “Perhaps there, where someone is resisting, hopelessly, perhaps there human history begins.”4


Human Capacity Political Consciousness Historical Success Rough Edge Theoretical Stance 
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  1. 1.
    Lucretius, De Rerum Natura Libri Sex. ed. Cyril Bailey (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1963), 2:277–80: “Iamne vides igitur, quamquam vis extera multos pellat et invitos cogat procedere saepe praecipitesque rapi, tamen esse in pectore nostro quiddam quod contra pugnare obstareque possit?,” emphasis added.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A founder of the Socialist League, “an advocate of revolution,” Morris “considered himself a communist, and enjoyed emphasizing the word”; Florence and William Boos, “The Utopian Communism of William Morris,” History of Political Thought 7, no. 3 (1986): 492. The authoritative study of Edward P. Thompson, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (Oakland, CA: PM press, 2011), first published in 1955, locates Morris in the romantic and aesthetic rejection of capitalism. According to Harry Pitt, in 1938 Wight had two heroes: Lenin and T. E. Lawrence. However, “his ardour for Lenin cooled as he got older”; Ian Hall, The International Thought of Martin Wight (New York: Palgrave, 2006), p. 174, note 89. Later on, apparently in the early 1960s, he described Lenin as “a commanding genius”; Martin Wight, Power Politics (London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1946), 1978 ed., p. 85.Google Scholar
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    Martin Wight, “Christian Commentary,” BBC Home Service, October, 29, 1948, p. 3. Again, there is a personal experiential reference for this controversial dictum: “The classical political example of debasing and perverting Hope … is the attitude of the majority of our own public opinion towards foreign affairs in the nineteenth-thirties”; ibid. Elsewhere, Wight recalls “the collective security we dreamed of in the ’thirties, the war against Mussolini”; Wight, Power Politics, 1978 ed., p. 142. MacKinnon drew attention to the fact that, in his interpretation, “even reference to the manifestation of anti-Christ was quoted by Professor Wight as suggesting that an extreme pessimism concerning progress towards an international order was perfectly compatible with an underlying and enduring hope”; Donald MacKinnon, “Power Politics and Religious Faith”, British Journal of International Studies 6, no. 1 (1980): 2. These are Machiavelli’s last words in a combative chapter on fortune’s malignity: “But, for all that, they [men] must never lose heart … They have always room for hope, and ought never to abandon it, whatsoever befalls, and into whatsoever straits they come.” This is the final demonstration that hope is not a theological virtue only; Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius, trans. Ninia H. Thomson (London: Kegan Paul, 1883), chapter 29, p. 312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Yiannis Ritsos, “Helen,” in Euripides, Trojan Women: The Trojan Women by Euripides and Helen and Orestes by Ritsos, trans. Gwendolyn MacEwen and Nikos Tsingos (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1981), p. 21. Ritsos was a partisan during the Axis occupation of Greece (1941–45) as well as a political prisoner during the military dictatorship.Google Scholar
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    Hans J. Morgenthau, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1946), p. 223.Google Scholar
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    Letter to Piero Soderini (January 1512?), in Niccolò Machiavelli, Machiavelli: The Chief Works and Others, trans. Allan Gilbert (New York: Duke University Press, 1989), 2, no. 116, p. 897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. Hans Gerth and Charles Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 128, emphasis added.Google Scholar
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    José Ortega y Gasset, “Miseria y Esplendor de la Traducción,” in Obras Completas (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1964), 5:439. For an alternative translation, see Elizabeth Gamble Miller’s trans. in Rainer Schulte and John Buguenet, eds., Theories of Translation. An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 99.Google Scholar
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    Raymond Aron, “Journaliste et Professeur,” Revue de l’Université de Bruxelles 12, octobre-février (1959–60): 190.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in Raymond Aron, Memorie, trans. Oreste del Buono (Milan: Mondadori, 1984), p. 573.Google Scholar
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    Bernard Shaw, The Devil’s Discipline (New York: Brentano’s, 1906), p. 70.Google Scholar
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    “Il y a une possibilité extrême où l’ironie n’est plus que la présence d’une conscience, présence dont le signe est, comme on sait, le sourire”; Robert Klein, La Forme et L’Intelligible. Ecrits sur la Renaissance et l’Art Moderne (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), p. 449. The English edition Form and Meaning (New York: Viking Press, 1979) is a heavily abridged selection of the original French book. Out of 25 essays, 12 are missing, including the above-mentioned passage from Le Thème du Fou et l’Ironie Humaniste (1963).Google Scholar
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    Franco Fortini, Tutte le Poesie, ed. Luca Lenzini (Milan: Mondadori, 2014), p. 405.Google Scholar

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© Michele Chiaruzzi 2016

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  • Michele Chiaruzzi

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