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Abstract

Futurism was launched as a revolutionary, iconoclastic movement encompassing the arts, politics and society. It rejected all ties with the past and preached with missionary zeal the advent of a new man and the total reconstruction of society. Despite its powerful impact on Italian politics, the importance of Futurism has scarcely been addressed in the social sciences. Yet, it continues to attract the interest of historians, literary critics and art historians. In fact, the major methodological hindrance for a more articulated research remains the latter's unchallenged hegemony, with their selective propensity to eulogistic accounts. The result is the neglect of Futurism's political dimension as a fully fledged nationalist movement. Aiming to redress this imbalance, the article analyzes Futurist politics through the movement's actions, proclaims and manifestos. It distinguishes early Futurism's anti-establishment ultra-nationalism (1909–1915) from the more institutionalized ‘muscular’ patriotism adopted after its merger with Fascism (1924–1944). In a global context of mounting nationalist state-building and spiralling inter-state rivalries, Italy's unitary, homogenizing nationalism provided a congenial matrix for the advent of war-mongering patriotism and irredentism. Here, Futurism found an ideal structure of political opportunities, in which it could articulate its unique repertoire of action. The futurists’ peculiar talent in ‘manufacturing consent’ through the media was put to test in their marketing of war as adventurous boundary-building enterprise, a vision subsequently appropriated by Fascism.