Beyond liberal discourse: Meta-ideological hegemony and narrative alternatives
Anili, Bruno, 1977-
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Anili, Bruno, 1977-
This project presents a critical engagement with the concept of ideology. It advances the view that political ideologies can be regarded as distinctive narrative styles and as such can be analyzed in their peculiar discursive formations. It specifically concentrates on liberalism, which I regard as the dominant ideology in much of "the West" today. My study contributes to the scholarship at the intersection between contemporary political theory, theories of language, and comparative politics. By employing simple instruments of semiotics I show how the discourse of liberalism organizes the production and deployment of political meaning. In particular, I argue that a critical engagement with the texts of thinkers ranging from John Locke to John Stuart Mill and John Rawls can contribute to unveiling the deep structures of liberal discourse. I maintain that these structures constitute liberalism as a "grammar" which operates by organizing political content around key concepts like individual agency, rationality, and anthropocentrism. Crucially, liberalism also acts as a "meta-ideology" capable of expressing alternative positions through its versatile grammatical infrastructure. I analyze contemporary theorists like Will Kymlicka, Robert Putnam, and Philip Pettit, and argue that they engage in similar intellectual projects, incorporating elements of communitarianism and republicanism in a liberal framework. In the second part of my dissertation I inquire into the possibility of alternative meta-ideological constellations. In particular, I focus on the contribution of Jean-Luc Nancy: I argue that his characterization of "being-in-common" as the fundamental position of existence can replace the liberal tenet of individualism as the basic assumption on human nature. Finally, I ground these abstract reflections in the concrete reality of the community of Badolato, in southern Italy, where locals and immigrants alike seem to understand and organize their relationality outside of a paradigm of liberal toleration. I present the results of the ethnographic research that I conducted in Badolato and I characterize that experience of encounter with the other as an example of the practices of hospitality envisioned by the late Jacques Derrida.