I graduated cum laude in Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" with a thesis on the reception and reworking of the performative theory of the linguist J.L. Austin, in Jacques Derrida's deconstruction of metaphysics and, subsequently, in Judith Butler's post-structuralist political philosophy. In short, I have been concerned with a particular conceptual metamorphosis of the idea of the performative, which is re-semantized from a linguistic category into a heuristic tool of power relations (inter-textual and ontological in Derrida, more strictly political in Butler). From here I developed my research interests concerning the history of contemporary political thought, and especially critical studies on power.
In fact, my doctoral project focuses on the history of the concept of neo-liberalism within contemporary critical theories. From the 1990s onwards, this category is almost exclusively employed in this heterogeneous theoretical context, to analytically and critically define the socio-political-economic-anthropological transformations of the contemporary world (since the 1960s it is very rare that there are "neoliberals" who self-define as such); and even more specifically to redefine and understand the metamorphoses of the various forms of power, power critique, and emancipation. With this in mind, I propose to carry out a historical-theoretical mapping of the concept of neoliberalism whose main theoretical claims concern an analysis and evaluation of the heuristics of the category of neoliberalism; the conceptual metamorphosis of the categories with which power and the critique of power is interpreted; and the effectivity-ineffectiveness of the critiques that descend from the theories-critics of neoliberalism. I intend to divide the work into two parts. The first part will be introductory, covering the category of neoliberalism according to "neoliberal" theorists and covering the period from the 1930s to the 1960s. Here I will show how the heterogeneous galaxy of neoliberal doctrines emerged in the inter-war period both to critique their contemporary collectivism and to rethink the theoretical foundations of classical liberalism. In this context, the concept of neo-liberalism is conceivable as a "concept of movement" (to use a Koselleckian category), poor in experiential content, but capable of generating expectations in the future. The concept is thus functional in articulating under a common name a minority and plurivocal intellectual movement. At the height of the Cold War, from the 1960s onwards, the theorists of neo-liberalism stopped using this word to self-define their thinking. The word 'neo-liberalism' lapses at the very moment when the contents that were once condensed in it begin to become hegemonic first in the Western world, then globally.
global level. The word neo-liberalism gradually re-emerged in political debate around the 1970s-1980s, but it was no longer associated with a positive intellectual movement. It was used by intellectuals and activists who were to varying degrees critical of the existing order. It is in this phase that neo-liberalism becomes a critical and, later, polemical concept: a concept with which one tries to theoretically grasp the present and act in it in a transformative sense in the direction of a potential emancipation. These are years of profound rethinking and transformation of traditional critical theories, in which the
concept of neoliberalism becomes a fundamental theoretical operator to think about the re-semantizations of power and critique. In the second, central part of the paper, I will address the concept of neoliberalism as understood. In this section, I will show how this concept begins to be used to critically rethink social power as early as the 1970s-1980s, focusing on the analyses of Michel Foucault and Stuart Hall; from the 1980s-1990s, the question of how critical praxis is capable of intervening in the transformation of neoliberal power becomes fundamental, so in this chronological block I will relate the question of how critical praxis is capable of intervening in the transformation of neoliberal power.
Therefore, in this chronological block I will relate the problem of neoliberalism and the theme of critique, focusing on the thought of Bourdieu, Ranciere and Boltanski. In the 1990s-2000s, analyses of the globalisation of neoliberal capital began to circulate, and in this context I will examine the thought of Harvey, Arrighi and Sassen, among others. Finally, in the last chapter, I will show how, in the years following the 2007-2008 crisis, the question of the heuristic validity of the category emerges in the debate on neoliberalism, increasingly accompanied by prefixes or adjectives that would mark a transformation of it: mutant neoliberalism, post-neoliberalism,"New' neoliberalism, populist neoliberalism, reactionary neoliberalism, etc. I will also examine the polemical and instrumental use of the concept of neo-liberalism by reactionary forces, such as the sovereignists, showing how the latter, far from being an alternative to what they criticise, can in many cases be considered a different interpretation of their instrumentally "polemical" referent. In the conclusions, in the light of what will have emerged from my historical-conceptual mapping, I will make global assessments on the variation of polemical forces and critical forms associated with the concept of neoliberalism in the various contexts taken into consideration, trying to give my own reading about the heuristic force and interest that the concept of neoliberalism can still have today,
in relation to the analysis of power and counter-power.
Through a mapping of neoliberalism understood as a critical-polemic category, I intend to recognise, historicise and analyse the semantic contents concentrated in this concept through a novel lens, with which to clarify exemplary lines of the contemporary political debate on neoliberalism; to verify the analytical tools with which it has been and is being conducted; understand the heuristics that disclose or preclude the thematization of the relationship between power and critique through the theoretical framework of neoliberalism, understanding its changing polemical referents from a diachronic and synchronic point of view; finally investigate to what extent this concept has been, and can or can no longer be, a theoretical device useful to reproduce the concrete in theoretical abstraction. Quoting Franco Fortini "It is a question of registering the critical instruments, of verifying their powers, of deciding at what level from the sea our calculations begin, within what arc of meridians and parallels we consider our discourses valid".