A Concise Overview of His Life, Works,
and Philosophy

By Fr. James Thornton

Italian contributions to political and social thought are singularly
impressive and, in fact, few nations are as favored with a tradition as
long and as rich.  One need only mention names such as Dante, Machiavelli,
and Vico to appreciate the importance of Italy in this respect.  In the
twentieth century too, the contributions made by Italians are of great
significance.  Among these are Gaetano Mosca's theory of oligarchical rule,
Roberto Michels' study of political parties, Corrado Gini's intriguing
sociobiological theories, and Scipio Sighele's investigations of the
criminal mind and of crowd psychology.(1)  One of the most widely respected
of these Italian political theorists and sociologists is Vilfredo Pareto.
Indeed, so influential are his writings that "it is not possible to write
the history of sociology without referring to Pareto."(2)  Throughout all
of the vicissitudes and convulsions of twentieth-century political life,
Pareto remains to this day "a scholar of universal reputation."(3)

Moreover, Pareto's importance for us today lies in the fact that he
represents one of the most distinguished intellectual currents in the
European tradition.  That broad school of thought includes such diverse
figures as Burke, Taine, Dostoyevsky, Burckhardt, Donoso Cort=E9s, Nietzsche=
and Spengler and stands in opposition to rationalism, liberalism,
egalitarianism, Marxism, and all of the other offspring of Enlightenment

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Paris in 1848.(4)  He was of
mixed Italian-French ancestry, the only son of the Marquis Raffaele Pareto,
an Italian exiled from his native Genoa because of his political views, and
Marie Mattenier.  Because his father earned a reasonably comfortable living
as a hydrological engineer, Pareto was reared in a middle-class
environment, enjoying the many advantages that accrued to people of his
class in that age.   He received a quality education in both France and
Italy, ultimately completing his degree in engineering at the Istituto
Politecnico of Turin where he graduated at the top of his class.  For some
years after graduation, he worked as a civil engineer, first for the
state-owned Italian Railway Company and later in private industry.

Pareto married in 1889.  His new spouse Dina Bakunin, a Russian, apparently
loved an active social life, which was rather in conflict with Pareto's own
love of privacy and solitude.  After twelve years of marriage Dina
abandoned her husband.  His second wife, Jane Regis, joined him shortly
after the collapse of his marriage and the two remained devoted to one
another throughout the remainder of Pareto's life.

During these years Pareto acquired a deep interest in the political life of
his country and expressed his views on a variety of topics in lectures, in
articles for various journals, and in direct political activity.  Steadfast
in his support of free enterprise economic theory and free trade, he never
ceased arguing that these concepts were vital necessities for the
development of Italy.  Vociferous and polemical in his advocacy of these
ideas, and sharp in his denunciation of his opponents (who happened to be
in power in Italy at that time), his public lectures were sufficiently
controversial that they were sometimes raided and closed down by the
police, and occasionally brought threats of violence from hired thugs.
Making little headway with his economic concepts at the time, Pareto
retired from active political life and was appointed Professor of Political
Economy at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) in 1893.  There he
established his reputation as an economist and sociologist.  So substantial
did this reputation eventually become that he has been dubbed "the Karl
Marx of the Bourgeoisie" by his Marxist opponents.  In economic theory, his
_Manual of Political Economy_(5)  and his critique of Marxian socialism,
_Les Systemes socialistes_,(6) remain among his most important works.

Pareto turned to sociology somewhat late in life, but he is nonetheless
acclaimed in this field.  His monumental _Treatise on General Sociology_,
and two smaller volumes, _The Rise and Fall of the Elites_ and _The
Transformation of Democracy_, are his sociological masterworks.(7)
Subsequently, we will consider the nature of some of the theories contained
in these books.

The title of Marquis was bestowed on Pareto's great-great-great-grandfather
in 1729 and, after his father's death in 1882, that dignity passed to
Pareto himself.  He never used the title, however, insisting that since it
was not earned, it held little meaning for him.  Conversely, after his
appointment to the University of Lausanne, he did use the title
"Professor," since that was something which, he felt, he merited because of
his lifetime of study.  These facts point to one of the most dominant
characteristics of this man-his extreme independence.

Pareto's great intelligence caused him difficulties in working under any
kind of supervision.  All of his life he moved, step by step, towards
personal independence.  Because he was thoroughly conscious of his own
brilliance,  his confidence in his abilities and in his intellectual
superiority often irritated and offended people around him.  Pareto, in
discussing almost any question about which he felt certain, could be
stubborn in his views and disdainful of those with divergent opinions.
=46urthermore, he could be harsh and sarcastic in his remarks. As a result,
some people came to see Pareto as disputatious, caustic, and careless of
people's feelings.

In contrast, Pareto could be generous to those he perceived as "underdogs."
He was always ready to take up his pen in defense of the poor or to
denounce corruption in government and the exploitation of those unable to
defend themselves.  As author and sociologist Charles Powers writes,

"For many years Pareto offered money, shelter, and counsel to political
exiles (especially in 1898 following the tumultuous events of that year in
Italy).  Like his father, Pareto was conservative in his personal tastes
and inclinations, but he was also capable of sympathizing with others and
appreciating protests for equality of opportunity and freedom of
expression(8).  Pareto was a free thinker.  In some respects, he is
reminiscent of an early libertarian.  He was possessed of that duality of
mood we continue to find among people who are extremely conservative and
yet ardent in their belief in personal liberty."(9)

Since he was an expert in the use of the sword, as well as a crack shot,
he was disinclined to give way before any threats to his person, a mode of
behavior he considered cowardly and contrary to his personal sense of
honor. More than once he sent bullies and thugs running in terror.(10)

Pareto suffered from heart disease towards the end of his life and
struggled through his last years in considerable ill health.  He died
August 19, 1923.

Les Systemes socialistes

A lifelong opponent of Marxism and liberal egalitarianism, Pareto published
a withering broadside against the Marxist-liberal worldview in 1902.
Considering the almost universal respect accorded the more salient aspects
of Marxism and liberalism, it is regrettable that Pareto's book, _Les
Systemes socialistes_, has not been translated into English in its
entirety.  Only a few excerpts have appeared in print.  In an often quoted
passage that might be taken as a prophetic warning for our own age, Pareto

"A sign which almost invariably presages the decadence of an aristocracy is
the intrusion of humanitarian feelings and of affected sentimentalizing
which render the aristocracy incapable of defending its position.
Violence, we should note, is not to be confused with force.  Often enough
one observes cases in which individuals and classes which have lost the
force to maintain themselves in power make themselves more and more hated
because of their outbursts of random violence.  The strong man strikes only
when it is absolutely necessary, and then nothing stops him.  Trajan was
strong, not violent: Caligula was violent, not strong.
"When a living creature loses the sentiments which, in given circumstances
are necessary to it in order to maintain the struggle for life, this is a
certain sign of degeneration, for the absence of these sentiments will,
sooner or later, entail the extinction of the species.  The living creature
which shrinks from giving blow for blow and from shedding its adversary's
blood thereby puts itself at the mercy of this adversary.  The sheep has
always found a wolf to devour it; if it now escapes this peril, it is only
because man reserves it for his own prey.  Any people which has horror of
blood to the point of not knowing how to defend itself will sooner or later
become the prey of some bellicose people or other.  There is not perhaps on
this globe a single foot of ground which has not been conquered by the
sword at some time or other, and where the people occupying it have not
maintained themselves on it by force.  If the Negroes were stronger than
the Europeans, Europe would be partitioned by the Negroes and not Africa by
the Europeans.  The 'right' claimed by people who bestow on themselves the
title of 'civilized' to conquer other peoples, whom it pleases them to call
'uncivilized,' is altogether ridiculous, or rather, this right is nothing
other than force.  For as long as the Europeans are stronger than the
Chinese, they will impose their will on them; but if the Chinese should
become stronger than the Europeans, then the roles would be reversed, and
it is highly probable that humanitarian sentiments could never be opposed
with any effectiveness to any army."(11)

In another portion of this same work that calls to mind the words of German
philosopher Oswald Spengler, Pareto similarly warns against what he
regarded as the suicidal danger of "humanitarianism":

"Any elite which is not prepared to join in battle to defend its position
is in full decadence, and all that is left to it is to give way to another
elite having the virile qualities it lacks.  It is pure day-dreaming to
imagine that the humanitarian principles it may have proclaimed will be
applied to it: its vanquishers will stun it with the implacable cry, 'Vae
Victis.'  The knife of the guillotine was being sharpened in the shadows
when, at the end of the eighteenth century, the ruling classes in France
were engrossed in developing their 'sensibility.'  This idle and frivolous
society, living like a parasite off the country, discoursed at its elegant
supper parties of delivering the world from superstition and of crushing
'l'Inf=E2me,' all unsuspecting that it was itself going to be crushed."(12)

A substantial portion of _Les Systemes socialistes_ is devoted to a
scathing assessment of the basic premises of Marxism.  According to
historian H. Stuart Hughes, this work caused Lenin "many a sleepless

In Pareto's view, the Marxist emphasis on the historical struggle between
the unpropertied working class-the proletariat-and the property-owning
capitalist class is skewed and terribly misleading.  History is indeed full
of conflict, but the proletariat-capitalist struggle is merely one of many
and by no means the most historically important.  As Pareto explains:

"The class struggle, to which Marx has specially drawn attention, is a real
factor, the tokens of which are to be found on every page of history.  But
the struggle is not confined only to two classes: the proletariat and the
capitalist; it occurs between an infinite number of groups with different
interests, and above all between the elites contending for power.  The
existence of these groups may vary in duration, they may be based on
permanent or more or less temporary characteristics.  In the most savage
peoples, and perhaps in all, sex determines two of these groups.  The
oppression of which the proletariat complains, or had cause to complain of,
is as nothing in comparison with that which the women of the Australian
aborigines suffer.  Characteristics to a greater or lesser degree
real-nationality, religion, race, language, etc.-may give rise to these
groups.  In our own day the struggle of the Czechs and the Germans in
Bohemia is more intense than that of the proletariat and the capitalists in

Marx's ideology represents merely an attempt, Pareto believes, to supplant
one ruling elite with another, despite Marxist promises to the contrary:

"The socialists of our own day have clearly perceived that the revolution
at the end of the eighteenth century led merely to the bourgeoisie's taking
the place of the old elite.  They exaggerate a good deal the burden of
oppression imposed by the new  masters, but they do sincerely believe that
a new elite of politicians will stand by their promises better than those
which have come and gone up to the present day.  All revolutionaries
proclaim, in turn, that previous revolutions have ultimately ended up by
deceiving the people; it is their revolution alone which is the true
revolution.  'all previous historical movements' declared the _Communist
Manifesto_ of 1848, 'were movements of minorities or in the interest of
minorities.  The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent
movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.'
Unfortunately this true revolution, which is to bring men an unmixed
happiness, is only a deceptive mirage that never becomes a reality.  It is
akin to the golden age of the millenarians: for ever waited, it is for ever
lost in the mists of the future, for ever eluding its devotees just when
they think they have it."(15)

Residues and Derivations

One of Pareto's most noteworthy and controversial theories is that human
beings are not, for the most part, motivated by logic and reason but rather
by sentiment.  _Les Systemes socialistes_ is interspersed with this theme
and it appears in its fully developed form in Pareto's vast _Treatise on
General Sociology_.  In his _Treatise_,  Pareto examines the multitudes of
human actions that constitute the outward manifestations of these
sentiments and classifies them into six major groups, calling them
"residues."  All of these residues are common to the whole of mankind,
Pareto comments, but certain residues stand out more markedly in certain
individuals.  Additionally, they are unalterable; man's political nature is
not perfectible but remains a constant throughout history.

*Class I* is the "instinct for combinations."  This is the manifestation of
sentiments in individuals and in society that tends towards
progressiveness, inventiveness, and the desire for adventure.  *Class II*
residues have to do with what Pareto calls the "preservation of aggregates"
and encompass the more conservative side of human nature, including loyalty
to society's enduring institutions such as family, church, community, and
nation and the desire for permanency and security.  Following this comes
the need for expressing sentiments through external action, Pareto's *Class
III* residues.  Religious and patriotic ceremonies and pageantry stand out
as examples of these residues and will include such things as saluting the
flag, participating in a Christian communion service,  marching in a
military parade, and so on.  In other words, human beings tend to manifest
their feelings in symbols.  Next comes the social instinct,*Class IV*,
embracing manifestations of sentiments in support of the individual and
societal discipline that is indispensable for maintaining the social
structure.  This includes phenomena such as self-sacrifice for the sake of
family and community and concepts such as the hierarchical arrangement of
societies.  *Class V* is that quality in a society that stresses individual
integrity and the integrity of the individual's possessions and
appurtenances.  These residues contribute to social stability, systems of
criminal and civil law being the most obvious examples.  Last we have
*Class VI*, which is the sexual instinct or the tendency to see social
events in sexual terms.

Throughout his _Treatise_, Pareto places particular emphasis on the first
two of these six residue classes and to the struggle within individual men
as well as in society between innovation and consolidation.  The late James
Burnham, writer, philosopher, and one of the foremost American disciples of
Pareto, states that Pareto's Class I and II residues are an extension and
amplification of certain aspects of political theorizing set down in the
fifteenth century by Niccol=F2 Machiavelli.(16) Machiavelli divided humans
into two classes, foxes and lions.  The qualities he ascribes to these two
classes of men resemble quite closely the qualities typical of Pareto's
Class I and Class II residue types.  Men with strong Class I residues are
the "foxes," tending to be manipulative, innovative, calculating, and
imaginative.  Entrepreneurs prone to taking risks, inventors, scientists,
authors of fiction, politicians, and creators of complex philosophies fall
into this category.  Class II men are "lions" and place much more value on
traits such as good character and devotion to duty than on sheer wits.
They are the defenders of tradition, the guardians of religious dogma, and
the protectors of national honor.

=46or society to function properly there must be a balance between these two
types of individuals; the functional relationship between the two is
complementary.  To illustrate this point, Pareto offers the examples of
Kaiser Wilhelm I, his chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and Prussia's adversary
Emperor Napoleon III.  Wilhelm had an abundance of Class II residues, while
Bismarck exemplified Class I.  Separately, perhaps, neither would have
accomplished much, but together they loomed gigantic in nineteenth-century
European history, each supplying what the other lacked.(17)

=46rom the standpoint of Pareto's theories, the regime of Napoleon III was a
lopsided affair, obsessed with material prosperity and dominated for almost
twenty years by such "foxes" as stock-market speculators and contractors
who, it is said, divided the national budget among themselves.  "In
Prussia," Pareto observes, "one finds a hereditary monarchy supported by a
loyal nobility: Class II residues predominate; in France one finds a
crowned adventurer supported by a band of speculators and spenders: Class I
residues predominate."(18) And, even more to the point, whereas in Prussia
at that time the requirements of the army dictated financial policy, in
=46rance the financiers dictated military policy.  Accordingly, when war
broke out between Prussia and France in the summer of 1870, the "moment of
truth" came for France.  Napoleon's vaunted Second Empire fell to pieces
and was overrun in a matter of weeks.(19)

Another aspect of Pareto's theories which we shall examine here briefly is
what he calls "derivations," the ostensibly logical justifications that
people employ to rationalize their essentially non-logical,
sentiment-driven actions.  Pareto names four principle classes of
derivations: 1) derivations of assertion; 2) derivations of authority; 3)
derivations that are in agreement with common sentiments and principles;
and, 4) derivations of verbal proof.  The first of these include statements
of a dogmatic or aphoristic nature, for example the saying, "honesty is the
best policy."  The second, authority, is an appeal to people or concepts
held in high esteem by tradition.  To cite the opinion of one of the
American Founding Fathers on some topic of current interest is to draw from
Class II derivations.  The third deals with appeals to "universal
judgement," the "will of the people," the "best interests of the majority,"
or similar sentiments.  And, finally, the fourth relies on various verbal
gymnastics, metaphors, allegories, and so forth.

We see, then, that to comprehend Pareto's residues and derivations is to
gain insights into the paradox of human behavior.  They represent an attack
on rationalism and liberal ideals in that they illuminate the primitive
motivations behind the sentimental slogans and catchwords of political
life. Pareto devotes the vast majority of his _Treatise_ to setting forth
in detail his observations on human nature and to proving the validity of
his observations by citing examples from history.  His erudition in fields
such as Greco-Roman history was legendary and this fact is reflected
throughout his massive tome.

At the social level, according to Pareto's sociological scheme, residues
and derivations are mechanisms by which society maintains its equilibrium.
Society is seen as a system, "a whole consisting of interdependent parts.
The 'material points or molecules' of the system ... are individuals who
are affected by social forces which are marked by constant or common
properties."(20)  When imbalances arise, a reaction sets in whereby
equilibrium is again achieved.  Pareto believed that Italy and France, the
two modern societies with which he was most familiar, were grossly out of
balance and that "foxes" were largely in control.  Long are his laments in
the _Treatise_ about the effete ruling classes in those two countries.  In
both instances, he held, revolutions were overdue.

We have already noted that when a ruling class is dominated by men
possessing strong Class I residues, intelligence is generally valued over
all other qualities.  The use of force in dealing with internal and
external dangers to the state and nation is shunned, and in its place
attempts are made to resolve problems or mitigate threats through
negotiations or social tinkering.   Usually, such rulers will find
justification for their timidity in false humanitarianism.

In the domestic sphere, the greatest danger to a society is an excess of
criminal activity with which Class I types attempt to cope by resorting to
methods such as criminal "rehabilitation" and various eleemosynary
gestures. The result, as we know only too well, is a country awash in
crime. With characteristic sarcasm Pareto comments on this phenomenon:

"Modern theorists are in the habit of bitterly reproving ancient
"prejudices" whereby the sins of the father were visited upon the son.
They fail to notice that there is a similar thing in our own society, in
the sense that the sins of the father benefit the son and acquit him of
guilt.  For the modern criminal it is a great good fortune to be able to
count somewhere among his ancestry or other relations a criminal, a
lunatic, or just a mere drunkard, for in a court of law that will win him a
lighter penalty or, not seldom, an acquittal. Things have come to such a
pass that there is hardly a criminal case nowadays where that sort of
defense is not put forward.  The old metaphysical proof that was used to
show that a son should be punished because of his father's wrongdoing was
neither more nor less valid than the proof used nowadays to show that the
punishment which otherwise he deserves should for the same reasons be
either mitigated or remitted.  When, then, the effort to find an excuse for
the criminal in the sins of his ancestors proves unavailing, there is still
recourse to finding one in the crimes of 'society,' which, having failed to
provide for the criminal's happiness, is 'guilty' of his crime.  And the
punishment proceeds to fall not upon 'society,' but upon one of its
members, who is chosen at random and has nothing whatever to do with the
presumed guilt.(21)"

Pareto elucidates in his footnote:

 "The classical case is that of the starving man who steals a loaf of
bread.  That he should be allowed to go free is understandable enough; but
it is less understandable that 'society's' obligation not to let him starve
should devolve upon one baker chosen at random and not on society as a

Pareto gives another example, about a woman who tries to shoot her seducer,
hits a third party who has nothing to do with her grievance, and is
ultimately acquitted by the courts.  Finally, he concludes his note with
these remarks:

"To satisfy sentiments of languorous pity, humanitarian legislators approve
'probation' and 'suspended sentence' laws, thanks to which a person who has
committed a first theft is at once put in a position to commit a second.
And why should the luxury of humaneness be paid for by the unfortunate
victim of the second theft and not by society as a whole? ... As it is, the
criminal only is looked after and no one gives a thought to the

Expanding on the proposition that "society" is responsible for the
murderous conduct of certain people, with which viewpoint he has no
tolerance, he writes:

    " In any event, we still have not been shown why people who, be it
through fault of 'society,' happen to be 'wanting in the moral sense,'
should be allowed freely to walk the streets, killing anybody they please,
and so saddling on one unlucky individual the task of paying for a 'fault'
that is common to all the members of 'society.'  If our humanitarians would
but grant that these estimable individuals who are lacking in a moral sense
as a result of 'society's shortcomings' should be made to wear some visible
sign of their misfortune in their buttonholes, an honest man would have a
chance of seeing them coming and get out of the way."(24)

In foreign affairs, "foxes" tend to judge the wisdom of all policies from a
commercial point of view and usually opt for negotiations and compromise,
even in dangerous situations.  For such men profit and loss determine all
policy, and though such an outlook may succeed for some time, the final
result is usually ruinous.  That is because enemies maintaining a balance
of "foxes" and "lions" remain capable of appreciating the use of force.
Though they may occasionally make a pretence of having been bought off,
when the moment is right and their overly-ingenious foe is fast asleep,
they strike the lethal blow. In other words, Class I people are accustomed
by their excessively-intellectualized preconceptions to believe that
'reason' and money are always mightier than the sword, while Class II folk,
with their native common sense, do not nurse such potentially fatal
delusions.  In Pareto's words, "The fox may, by his cunning, escape for a
certain length of time, but the day may come when the lion will reach him
with a well-aimed cuff, and that will be the end of the argument."(25)

Circulation of the Elites

Apart from his analyses of residues and derivations, Pareto is notable
among sociologists for the theory known as "the circulation of the elites."
Let us remember that Pareto considered society a system in equilibrium,
where processes of change tend to set in motion forces that work to restore
and maintain social balance.

Pareto asserts that there are two types of elites within society: the
governing elite and the non-governing elite.  Moreover, the men who make up
these elite strata are of two distinct mentalities, the speculator and the
rentier.  The speculator is the progressive, filled with Class I residues,
while the rentier is the conservative, Class II residue type.  There is a
natural propensity in healthy societies for the two types to alternate in
power.  When, for example, speculators have made a mess of government and
have outraged the bulk of their countrymen by their corruption and
scandals, conservative forces will step to the fore and, in one way or
another, replace them.  The process, as we have said, is cyclical and more
or less inevitable.

=46urthermore, according to Pareto, wise rulers seek to reinvigorate their
ranks by allowing the best from the lower strata of society to rise and
become fully a part of the ruling class.  This not only brings the best and
brightest to the top, but deprives the lower classes of talent and of the
leadership qualities that might one day prove to be a threat.  Summarizing
this component of Pareto's theory, a contemporary sociologist observes that
practicality, not pity, demands such a policy:

"A dominant group, in Pareto's opinion, survives only if it provides
opportunities for the best persons of other origins to join in its
privileges and rewards, and if it does not hesitate to use force to defend
these privileges and rewards.  Pareto's irony attacks the elite that
becomes humanitarian, tenderhearted rather than tough-minded.  Pareto
favors opportunity for all competent members of society to advance into the
elite, but he is not motivated by feelings of pity for the underprivileged.
To express and spread such humanitarian sentiments merely weakens the
elite in the defense of its privileges.  Moreover, such humanitarian
sentiments would easily be a platform for rallying the opposition."(26)

But few aristocracies of long standing grasp the essential nature of this
process, preferring to keep their ranks as exclusive as possible.  Time
takes its toll, and the rulers become ever weaker and ever less capable of
bearing the burden of governing:

"It is a specific trait of weak governments.  Among the causes of the
weakness two especially are to be noted: humanitarianism and cowardice-the
cowardice that comes natural to decadent aristocracies and is in part
natural, in part calculated, in "speculator" governments that are primarily
concerned with material gain.  The humanitarian spirit ... is a malady
peculiar to spineless individuals who are richly endowed with certain Class
I residues that they have dressed up in sentimental garb."(27)

 In the end, of course, the ruling class falls from power.  Thus, Pareto
writes that "history is a graveyard of aristocracies."(28)

 The Transformation of Democracy

Published as a slim volume near the end of Pareto's life, _The
Transformation of Democracy_ originally appeared in 1920 as a series of
essays published in an Italian scholarly periodical, _Revista di Milano_.
In this work, Pareto recapitulates many of his theories in a more concise
form, placing particular emphasis on what he believes are the consequences
of allowing a money-elite to dominate society.  The title of this work
comes from Pareto's observation that European democracies in the 1920s were
more and more being transformed into plutocracies.  The deception and
corruption associated with plutocratic rule would eventually produce a
reaction, however,  and lead to the system's downfall.  In Pareto's words,

"The plutocracy has invented countless makeshift programs, such as
generating enormous public debt that plutocrats know they will never be
able to repay, levies on capital, taxes which exhaust the incomes of those
who do not speculate, sumtuary laws which have historically proven useless,
and other similar measures.  The principal goal of each of these measures
is to deceive the multitudes."(29)

When a society's system of values deteriorates to the point where hard work
is denigrated and "easy money" extolled, where honesty is mocked and
duplicity celebrated, where authority gives way to anarchy and justice to
legal chicanery, such a society stands face to face with ruin.

Pareto and Fascism
Before we enter into the controversy surrounding Pareto's sympathy for
Italian leader Benito Mussolini, let us take pains to avoid the error of
viewing events of the 1920s through the spectacles of the post-World War II
era, for what seemed apparent in 1945 was not at all evident twenty years
before.  Inarguably, throughout the whole of the 1920s, Mussolini was an
enormously popular man in Italy and abroad, with all except perhaps the
most inveterate leftists.  An American writer puts it as follows:

"Postwar [First World War] Italy ... was a sewer of corruption and
degeneracy.  In this quagmire Fascism appeared like a gust of fresh air, a
tempest-like purgation of all that was defiled, leveled, fetid.  Based on
the invigorating instincts of nationalist idealism, Fascism "was the
opposite of wild ideas, of lawlessness, of injustice, of cowardice, of
treason, of crime, of class warfare, of special privilege; and it
represented square-dealing, patriotism and common sense."  As for
Mussolini, "there has never been a word uttered against his absolute
sincerity and honesty.  Whatever the cause on which he embarked, he proved
to be a natural-born leader and a gluttonous worker."  Under Mussolini's
dynamic leadership, the brave Blackshirts made short shrift of the
radicals, restored the rights of property, and purged the country of
self-seeking politicians who thrive on corruption endemic to mass

If the Italian Duce was so popular in the 1920s that he received the
accolades of the _Saturday Evening Post _(31) and the American Legion (32),
and the highest praises of British and American establishment figures such
as Winston Churchill(33) and Ambassador Richard Washburn Child,(34) how
much more enthusiastic must have been Italians of Pareto's conservative
bent at that time.  They credited Mussolini with nothing less than rescuing
Italy from chaos and Bolshevism.  The coming tragedies of the '40s,
needless to say, were far away, over a distant horizon, invisible to all.

Pareto invariably expressed contempt for the pluto-democratic governments
that ruled Italy throughout most of his life.  His rancor towards liberal
politicians and their methods surfaces all through his books; these men are
the object of his scorn and sharp wit.  Pareto translator Arthur Livingston
writes, "He was convinced that ten men of courage could at any time march
on Rome and put the band of 'speculators' that were filling their pockets
and ruining Italy to flight."(35)  Consequently, in October 1922, after the
=46ascist March on Rome and Mussolini's appointment by the King as Prime
Minister, "Pareto was able to rise from a sick-bed and utter a triumphant
'I told you so!'."(36)  Yet, Pareto never joined the Fascist Party.  Well
into his seventies and severely ill with heart disease, he remained
secluded in his villa in Switzerland.

The new government, however, extended many honors to Pareto.  He was
designated as delegate to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, was made a
Senator of the Kingdom, and was listed as a contributor to the Duce's
personal periodical, _Gerarchia_.(37)  Many of these honors he declined due
to the state of his health, yet he remained favorably disposed towards the
regime corresponding with Mussolini and offering advice in the formulation
of economic and social policies.(38)

Many years before the March on Rome, Mussolini attended Pareto's lectures
in Lausanne and listened to the professor with rapt attention.  "I looked
forward to every one," Mussolini wrote, "...[f]or here was a teacher who
was outlining the fundamental economic philosophy of the future."(39)  The
young Italian was obviously deeply impressed and, after his elevation to
power, sought immediately to transform his aged mentor's thoughts into

"In the first years of his rule Mussolini literally executed the policy
prescribed by Pareto, destroying political liberalism, but at the same time
largely replacing state management of private enterprise, diminishing taxes
on property, favoring industrial development, imposing a religious
education in dogmas...."(40)

Of course, it was not only Pareto's economic theories that influenced the
course of the Fascist state, but especially the sociological theories:
"...the _Sociologia Generale_ has become for many Fascists a treatise on
government...,"(41) noted one writer at the time.  Clearly, there was some
agreement between Pareto and the new government.  Pareto's theory of rule
by elites, his authoritarian leanings, his uncompromising rejection of the
liberal fixation with Economic Man, his hatred of disorder, his devotion to
the hierarchical arrangement of society, and his belief in an aristocracy
of merit are all ideas in harmony with Fascism.  Let us keep in mind,
however, that all of these ideas were formulated by Pareto decades before
anyone had ever heard of Fascism and Mussolini.  Likewise, it may be said
that they are as much in harmony with age-old monarchical ideas, or those
of the ancient authoritarian republics, as with any modern political

Some writers have speculated that had Pareto lived he would have found many
points of disagreement with the Fascist state as it developed, and it is
true that he expressed his disapprobation over limitations placed by the
regime on freedom of expression, particularly in academia.(42)  As we have
already seen, however, it was in Pareto's nature to find fault with nearly
all regimes, past and present, and so it would not have been surprising had
he found reason occasionally to criticize Mussolini's.

Though Fascist rule in Italy came to an end with the military victory of
the Anglo-Americans in 1945, Pareto's influence was not seriously touched
by that mighty upheaval.  Today, new editions of his works and new books
about his view of society continue to appear.  That his ideas endured the
catastrophe of the war virtually without damage, and that they are still
discussed among and debated by serious thinkers, is suggestive of their
universality and timelessness.


1) See, for example, W. Rex Crawford, "Representative Italian Contributions
to Sociology: Pareto, Loria, Vaccaro, Gini, and Sighele," chap. in _An
Introduction to The History of Sociology_, Harry Elmer Barnes, editor
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), Howard Becker and Harry Elmer
Barnes, "Sociology in Italy," chap. in _Social Thought From Lore to
Science_, (New York: Dover Publications, 1961), and  James Burnham, _The
Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom_ (New York: The John Day Company,

  2) G. Duncan Mitchell, _A Hundred Years of Sociology_ (Chicago: Aldine
Publishing Company, 1968), p. 115.

 3)  Herbert W. Schneider, _Making the Fascist State _(New York: Oxford
University Press, 1928), p. 102.

 4) Biographical details are taken from Charles H. Powers, _Vilfredo
Pareto_, vol. 5, _Masters of Social Theory_, Jonathan H. Turner, Editor
(Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1987), pp. 13-20.

5) Appearing originally in 1909, the _Manuele di economia politica_ has
been translated into English:  Ann Schwier translator, Ann Schwier and
Alfred Page, Editors (New York: August M. Kelly, 1971).

 6) (Geneva: Librarie Droz, 1965). Published originally 1902-3.  The book
has never been fully published in English.

7) _The Treatise on General Sociology_ (Trattato di Sociologia Generale),
was first published  in English under the name _The Mind and Society_, A.
Borngiorno and Arthur Livingston, translators (New York: Harcourt, Brace,
Javanovich, 1935).  It was reprinted in 1963 under its original title (New
York: Dover Publications) and remains in print (New York: AMS Press, 1983).
_The Rise and Fall of the Elites: An Application of Theoretical Sociology
_(Totowa, New Jersey: The Bedminster Press, 1968; reprint, New Brunswick,
New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1991) is a translation of Pareto's
monograph, "Un Applicazione de teorie sociologiche," published in 1901 in
_Revista Italiana di Sociologia.The Transformation of Democracy
_(Trasformazioni della democrazia), Charles Power, editor, R. Girola,
translator (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1984).  The
original Italian edition appeared in 1921.

8) This term, "equality of opportunity" is so misused in our own time,
especially in America, that some clarification is appropriate.  "Equality
of opportunity" refers merely to Pareto's belief that in a healthy society
advancement must be opened to superior members of all social
classes-"Meritocracy," in other words.  See Powers, pp. 22-3.

9) Powers, p. 19.

10)  Ibid., p. 20.

 11) Adrian Lyttelton, Editor, _Italian Fascisms: From Pareto to Gentile_
(New York: Harper & Row, 1975), pp. 79-80.

 12) Ibid., p. 81.

 13) H. Stuart Hughes, _Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate_ (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952), p. 16.

14)  Lyttelton, p. 86.

15)  Ibid., pp. 82-3.

16)  James Burnham, _Suicide of the West_ (New York: John Day Company,
1964), pp. 248-50.

17)  Pareto, _Treatise_, # 2455. Citations from the _Treatise_ refer to the
paragraph numbers that the author uses in this work .  Citations are thus
uniform in all editions.

18)  Ibid., # 2462.

 19) Ibid., #  2458-72.

 20) Nicholas Timasheff,  _Sociological Theory: Its Nature and Growth_ (New
York: Random House, 1967), p. 162.

21)  Pareto, _Treatise_, # 1987.

 22) Ibid. # 1987n.

 23) Ibid.

24) Ibid., # 1716n.

25)  Ibid., # 2480n.

 26) Hans L. Zetterberg, "Introduction" to _The Rise and Fall of the
Elites_ by Vilfredo Pareto, pp. 2-3.

 27) Pareto, Treatise, # 2474.

28)  Ibid., # 2053.

29)  Pareto, _Transformation_, p. 60.

 30 John P. Diggins, _Mussolini and Fascism: The View from America_
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972), p. 17.  Diggins'
quotations in the cited paragraph come from the writings of an American
Mussolini enthusiast of the 1920s,  Kenneth L. Roberts.

31)  Ibid., p. 27.

32)  Ibid., p. 206.  Mussolini was officially invited to attend the San
=46rancisco Legion Convention of 1923 (he declined) and some years later was
made an honorary member of the American Legion by a delegation of
Legionnaires visiting Rome.  The Duce received the delegation in his palace
and was awarded a membership badge by the delighted American visitors.

33)  In an interview published in the London Times, January 21, 1927,
immediately after a visit by Churchill to Mussolini, the future British
Prime Minister said: "If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have
been wholeheartedly with you [Mussolini] from start to finish in your
triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of
Leninism."  See Luigi Villari, _Italian Foreign Policy Under Mussolini_
(New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1956), p. 43.

  34) The United States Ambassador to Italy in the '20s, Child dubbed
Mussolini "the Spartan genius," ghostwrote an "autobiography" of Mussolini
for publication in America, and perpetually extolled the Italian leader in
the most extravagant terms. Diggins, p. 27.

  35) Pareto, _Treatise_, p. xvii.

 36) Ibid.

37)  Franz Borkenau, _Pareto_ (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1936), p. 18.

  38) Ibid., p. 20.

 39) Benito Mussolini, _My Autobiography_ (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1928), p. 14.

40)  Borkenau, p. 18.

41)  George C. Homans and Charles P. Curtis, Jr., _An Introduction to
Pareto_ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934), p. 9.

 42) Borkenau, p. 18.  In a letter written to Mussolini written shortly
before Pareto's death, the sociologist cautioned that the Fascist regime
must relentlessly strike down all active opponents.  Those, however, whose
opposition was merely verbal should not be molested since, he believed,
that would serve only to conceal public opinion.  "Let the crows craw but
BE MERCILESS when it comes to ACTS," Pareto admonished the Duce. See
Alistair Hamilton, _The Appeal of Fascism: A Study of Intellectuals and
=46ascism, 1919-1945_ (New York: Macmillan Company, 1971), pp. 44-5.

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Burnham, James.  The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom.  New York: John
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--------------------.  Suicide of the West.  New York: John Day Company, 196=

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