The British Society for Phenomenology 2013 Annual Conference
Remembering the Impossible Tomorrow: Italian Political Thought and the Recent Crisis in Capitalism
5th- 7th April, 2013
St Hilda’s College Oxford
During Marx’s time radical thought was formed from a convergence of three sources: German philosophy, English economics, and French politics. In the introduction to Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (1996) Michael Hardt argued that these tides had shifted, with radical movements drawing from French philosophy, US economics, and Italian politics. More recently, Matteo Pasquinelli has argued that ‘Italian theory’ has attained an academic hegemony comparable to that held by French philosophy in the 1980s.
But despite the proliferation of analysis and organizing drawing from and inspired by the history of autonomous politics in Italy, where are these voices today? In 2012, if you listened to the mainstream politicians and economic experts and no-one else, you would hardly know that there was any financial crisis in 2008. You might have a faint recollection that for a brief moment alternative voices were heard in the media, but now it as if nothing at all had happened. The waters that once had parted have now engulfed us again. It is the same voices articulating the same tired ideas as the whole of Europe slides into the nightmare of austerity, despite the fact they do not appear to have any relation to reality, and even those who speak them seem exhausted and worn out.
For some time now, many of us have noticed that there have been different voices, and they began speaking many years before 2008 warning us of an impending disaster. These voices were coming from Italy. Perhaps because of their own experience, the radical Italian thinkers never believed the logic of the market could solve its own problems or that life and capital were one and the same. Our hope is to draw from this history as well as listen to some of the new generation of Italian political thinkers, to share their ideas, offer an alternative diagnosis of the present, and perhaps even a suggestion of what different future might look like.
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