Contemporary Italian Political Thought

Seminario en línea | Del 21 marzo 2011 al 10 julio 2011

Praxis and Contingency

An online seminar in English, lasting sixteen weeks (March 21 – July 10, 2011) coordinated by Aldo Trucchio.
Nota: Aunque el presente seminario en línea transcurrirá en Inglés, los participantes podrán leer los textos asignados en la lengua de su preferencia. | Note: While this online seminar will take place in English, participants are encouraged to read the assigned texts in the language of their preference.

Why is Italian political thought currently the object of worldwide discussion?
Which are its peculiar characteristics?
Is it possible to speak of an Italian philosophical ‘tradition’ from Machiavelli to our time?

In Europe, the 15th century was characterized by the rise of modern nation-states; political philosophers undertook to theorize the new national power and propose innovative strategies in order to neutralize civil and religious domestic conflicts.

In Italy—a politically fragmented country, but nonetheless homogeneous from a religious and a cultural point of view—thinkers did not attempt to justify the birth of modern states as a necessity for political pacification; instead, they tried to put into action collective experiments in order to improve the citizens’ living conditions. These intellectuals based their theories on concrete reality, i.e. on the existing government systems and material constitutions.

The issue for them, therefore, was not to question the passage from the state of nature and the ‘war of all against all’ to civilization; but to accept the inevitability of conflicts, in the belief that these could increase the strength and power of the res publica.

Just as a human body is in good shape as long as all its parts and humors are in balance—and can, in those conditions, even be strengthened by illness and disease—in politics all social parties try to prevail; but from their clash, new balances can originate.

Such is the origin of the Italian philosophical tradition, which nowadays faces the issues of globalization, biotechnologies, the struggle of women and migrants, the crisis of capitalism and the form of the modern state.

This online course proposes a joint reflection starting with eight philosophical keywords, through eight philosophers and their most important texts, in order to discover Italian political thought. From Machiavelli—who stands at the origin of the Italian anomaly with respect to the dominant trend of modernity—through the characteristic debates of the 20th century about cultural hegemony and work centrality, up to new communitarism and post-marxism, we will attempt to read contemporary reality through the prism of eclectic and innovative categories.

Our work will be characterized by a two-weekly rhythm: during the first week, participants will devote their time to the readings; during the second week in-depth, collective discussions will ensue. Our exchanges will take place in the electronic forums of 17, Institute of Critical Studies. They will be conducted in asynchronic manner, allowing participants to involve themselves across various time zones, whenever they wish to intervene. This seminar will be conducted in the spirit of the writerly study practices matured at the Institute since 2001.

Our itinerary will be as follows:

March 21th – April 03th
Niccolò Machiavelli is our contemporary. His statements about the movement of people, his distrust for any political or legal transcendentalism and his opinion about the persuasive power of religion render his conceptual tools still relevant to understand our world.

The Discourses, Penguin Books, London. (Books I-XVII)
(In Italian: Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, Dell’arte della guerra e altre opere, voll. 1-2, Utet, Milano 2006)
(In Spanish: Discursos sobre la primera década de Tito Livio, Losada, Buenos Aires)

April 04th – 17th
Community of lack

According to Roberto Esposito, modern political philosophy is characterized by the (forever unsuccessful) attempt adequately to reflect upon the community. We should then stop thinking about our lack of community, and instead redefine our community as a shared lack—the lack of common origins, identities and properties—which totalitarian politics seek to deny.

Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community, Stanford University Press (Introduction and Ch. I, La paura)
(In Italian: Communitas. Origine e destino della comunità, Einaudi, Torino 2006)
(In Spanish: Communitas, Amorrortu, Madrid-Buenos Aires)

April 18th – May 03th
Community without assumption
In an explicitly apocalyptic language, Giorgio Agamben describes the advent of a new politics, i.e. the common will of a new kind of community, without conditions of belonging imposed from above.

The Coming Community, University of Minnesota Press. (§§ 1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19)
(In Italian: La comunità che viene, Bollati Boringhieri, Milano 2001)
(In Spanish: La comunidad que viene, Pre-textos, Valencia)

May 02th – 15th

According to Antonio Negri, our time is characterized by new relations of production which correspond to new persuasive strategies, linked to the oppression and exploitation implemented by a supranational capitalist establishment. Therefore, we have to reconsider our conception of revolution.

Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge-London (Preface and Part I, La costituzione politica del presente)
(In Italian: Impero, Rizzoli, Milano 2003)
(In Spanish: Imperio, Paidós, Buenos Aires)

May 16th – 19th
Moving on from the classic modern dichotomy between ‘people’ and ‘multitude’, Paolo Virno radically attempts to reconsider a number of concepts belonging to political philosophy.

A Grammar of the Multitude, MIT Press
(In Italian: Grammatica della moltitudine, DeriveApprodi, Milano 1998)
(In Spanish: Gramática de la multitud: Para un análisis de las formas de vida contemporáneas, Colihue, Buenos Aires)

May 30th – June 12th
Mario Tronti studies the rising figure of the mass worker in Western societies and underlines the subjective nature of political struggles. ‘Salary as an independent variable’ stands as a political slogan, not an economic observation.

Readings online:
Social Capital
The Strategy of Refusal
Lenin in England
(Il piano del capitale, Strategia del rifiuto, Lenin in Inghilterra / Social capital, The strategy of the refusal, Lenin in England).
(In Italian: Operai e capitale, Einaudi Reprint, Torino 1980)
(In Spanish: Obreros y capital, Akal, Madrid)

June 13th – 26th
Pier Paolo Pasolini denounced new fascisms, worse than those that arose during the Second World War; he sought in vain for a genuine humanity in the age of consumerism; finally he gave up his research and left us with his terrible abjuration of life. Thus Pasolini has become one of the most prophetic and discussed intellectuals in the 20th century.

Lutheran Letters, Carcanet, Manchester. (Gennariniello and Abiura from Trilogy of life)
(In Spanish: Cartas luteranas, Trotta, Madrid)
(In Italian: Lettere luterane, Garzanti, Milano 2009)

June 27th – July 10th
Antonio Gramsci renovated the tradition of Marxism-Leninism. He defined politics as a struggle of social groups willing to represent all the people and imposing on the others through a process of moral and intellectual leadership, not only by force and coercion.

Prison Notebooks, Columbia University Press. (Notebook 12)
(In Spanish: Cuadernos de la cárcel, Era, Mexico D.F.)
(In Italian: Quaderni del carcere, Einaudi, Torino 2007)

Meant for: All those formally or informally concerned with questions political and philosophical who wish to come to grips with contemporary Italian political thought and want to find out how it can help us make better sense of the world today.

Commences: Monday 21st of March, 2011.
Duration: 16 weeks, in 8 thematic units.

Further information

phone: +52 (55) 5659-1000 and +52 (55) 5511-4488