N.1/2019 L'Italian Thought fra globalizzazione e tradizione

Saggi (Parte II) – Italian Thought e modernità

Civil Religion and the Pursuit of Happiness from Machiavelli to Italian Theory

Miguel Vatter
Flinders University

Published in June, 2019

Civil Religion and the Pursuit of Happiness from Machiavelli to Italian Theory


In this article I propose a conception of “civil religion” to bridge the tension (or dissolve the antinomy) between immanence and transcendence that has characterized Italian Theory to date. This tension is due to the two central components of Italian Theory, namely, the discourse on biopolitics and the discourse on political theology. In what follows I argue that this conception of “civil religion” originates with Machiavelli and is functional to his vision of democratic constitutionalism. I propose a new genealogy of this conception drawn from the history of the reception of Alfarabi and Averroes in western political thought. The article explains that the difference between civil religion and political theology consists in the former maintaining the priority of worldly happiness over otherworldly salvation. The article concludes with a reflection on how this concept of worldly happi- ness can serve to contrast the “biopolitical” pursuit of private happiness.


civil religion, republicanism, Italian Theory, Machiavelli, Alfarabi.

Critical Journal of History of Ideas
International Philosophy Journal

Andrea Tagliapietra and Sebastiano Ghisu

Giovanni Campus

Authorized by Tribunale di Sassari n.455 del 14/7/2008 - ISSN 2035-732X - ISSN (Paper edition) 2035-732X