Come rendere conto del potere: giustificazione, struttura e genealogia

Anno LI, n. 217, settembre-dicembre 2016
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


The essay suggests a redefinition of the opposition between realism and normativism in political philosophy. I start from Norberto Bobbio’s classification of different kinds of political philosophy. Bobbio recognizes the distinction between realist and idealist – what I call normative – theories. But he argues that there is an underlying distinction between rationalist and historicist theories. For Bobbio rationalist theories pose the question “why is there political power?”, while historicist theories ask “what are the origins of political power?”. I argue that this underlying distinction is much more general than the one between realism and normativism. Redefining Bobbio’s distinction, I describe rationalist theories as theories that use the concept of justification. On this account to justify political power means to provide conditions of acceptability for all those involved. In this sense, putting their methodological differences aside, both realist and normative theories are justification theories. On the contrary, historicist theories are based on the historicization of political power. Historicization means “thinking” the political power in its intrinsic historical contingency. In this sense it is more accurate to interpret theories like those of Marx and Foucault using the concept of historicization than putting them aside as realist ones.