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XXIX, 2, 2019: Il problema dell’istituzione. Prospettive ontologiche, antropologiche e giuridico-politiche. Edited by Enrica Lisciani-Petrini and Massimo Adinolfi

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copertina-2016-1-fronteWhen, more than three years ago, together with the editor in chief and the editorial board of this journal, we planned an issue of Discipline Filosofiche on the theme of institution, we would never have imagined that the number of publications and related initiatives would have multiplied in such a short time. In fact, a classic of Italian legal thought, Santi Romano’s L’ordinamento giuridico, was republished last year, a century after its first edition, dating back to 1917-1918; and so was Widar Cesarini Sforza’s Il diritto dei privati, whose author also edited the first Italian edition (1967) of Maurice Hauriou’s Teoria dell’istituzione e della fondazione (1925), now reappeared in a new series, Jus, inaugurated by Quodlibet. Finally, the new volume of the Almanacco di Filosofia e Politica edited by Roberto Esposito, on Institution, Philosophy, Politics, History, is about to appear from the same publisher.
But that is not all. If we take a look beyond Italian borders, we will immediately realise that interest is increasing also elsewhere. Just think of the recent English translation of Romano’s Ordinamento giuridico (The Legal Order, edited by M. Croce, Routledge, London-New York, 2017); or of the recently renewed attention, in France, to Pierre Léon Duguit, Georges Renard and Maurice Hauriou’s thought. Such a revival has been certainly favoured by a new, sophisticated version of legal institutionalism (O. Weinberger, N. MacCormick) and by the neo-institutional approaches in economy (O.E. Williamson, D.C. North). But it is evident that it goes far beyond the field of constitutional law studies, investing the ever expanding space of economic, social and political institutions. Therefore, in this sudden and intense re-emergence of the theme of institution – a theme that of course has always been on the agenda in public law, sociological and even philosophical debate – there is something deep to understand and that concerns our time. Something that can be seen only from the wide-ranging vantage point of the philosopher, who is able to go beyond the borders of the single disciplines and get an overview that links them together. Hence the importance and even, perhaps, the urgency of dedicating a issue of a philosophical journal to the theme of institution. With the hope that it will carry on and expand the rich debate underway.
Indeed, there are two focuses for attention – from which relevant consequences for the contemporary cultural scenario stem out with a domino effect. This renders the problem of institution, in this historical moment, an indisputable epicentre around which numerous questions tie together. The first one concerns the more properly historical and political level. We are dealing with the whirling global expansion that, in a few decades, has eroded some of the previous key-institutions, secular bulwarks of a specific social and historical order existing at least until the mid-1800s, if not even later: national sovereignty, linguistic peculiarities, differences of traditions and customs, heterogeneous economical contexts. In the face of the developments brought about by globalization, which have overthrown barriers and solidified identities, there were and are only two possible ways to proceed. Either the invention of unprecedented institutional methods – like the construction of the European Union, even with all its limits: an institution, or a net of international institutions unparalleled in the history of the Western world (suffice it to think of the single currency, with all the imbalance it has produced, but at the same time with the integration that has resulted from it). A route to be pursued and developed. Or – and this is the other way – the reactive revival of new identity borders, old small nations, political, anthropological and economical barriers destined to retrace history back on its steps. With the grievous consequences of negatively overthrowing that global expansion, potentially fertile, crystalizing it into economic and financial systems that restore inhomogeneity and exclusions among the European peoples and within each of them. Hence the impelling necessity to increase reflection upon institutional processes in response to such tendencies, with the awareness that law is not only needed to legitimate decreed rules and consolidated powers, but also has a performative potential that can change existing power relations, creating new equilibriums among single and collective subjects. This potential for innovation is activated in the passage from the static conservation of institutions to the dynamic operativity of instituting – a passage of strategic importance for a new semantics of institution (and one that underlies all the texts presented here).
But, although this vast and complex historical process may seem to lie, at least at a superficial glance, outside the field of philosophy, it actually – and this is the second focus for our attention – directly calls philosophy, the dimension of thought, into play. That is the human capacity to imagine and elaborate new “forms of life”. Not only has philosophy never stopped questioning itself on these problems but, also on the basis of the extraordinary transformations that took place in the past century and are still occurring, it has oriented its reflections upon this specific thematic turning point, bringing a distinctly theoretical interest to it. And after all – as Husserl asserted in the wake of a great philosophical tradition – a philosophy that would give up on any stance in the present, would no longer be such.
Starting from this hermeneutical watershed, we need to follow two different paths. On the one side, we need to critically analyse those forms of life and those lexical paradigms that have characterized modernity and have come right down to us, and that appear now unable to activate new instituting processes. As a matter of fact, if for a long season, namely the “modern” one, the brilliant institution of the “individual person” – with all its conceptual and practical outcomes – has represented a basic and fruitful stronghold of the history of the western world, today it is obviously no longer sufficient to express the social and cultural dynamics that invest our experience. On the other side, we have to shift our attention – particularly in the phenomenological field – from the transcendental structures of the subject to the objective forms of an instituting process that crosses the borders of conscience, relating it to the needs, the imaginations, the impulses of the community and the world of life. This is precisely because – and this is a philosophically distinctive result – it is not the subjects who come before the institutions (as maintained by the philosophy of con-stituting conscience), but the instituting praxis that creates the subjects who in their turn activate it. This means putting behind – at an anthropological, sociological and political level – the traditional katechontica conception of institution, together with its associated category of the negative, and radically rethinking it as a positive means of assertion of the tendencies typical of human nature. Surely, the variety of political, social, and judicial institutions, with their conventional or artificial traits, stems from here. But this conventionality or artificiality cannot be thought of as a pure arbitrary choice, as arid instrumental technology. It is that point of union, and of tension, between artifice and nature, history and anthropology, life and technology, that continuously creates and recreates itself right in the institutions, that needs to be recovered. The names that immediately come to mind – in relation to such a range of questions – are, besides Arnold Gehlen e Marcel Mauss, first and foremost Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, on the one hand, and the young Gilles Deleuze still influenced by Hume, on the other – the very authors we meet in the pages that follow. It is not a coincidence that in all of them the institution, or better still the instituting movement, recovers a vital relationship with the negative in a non-dialectical key – significantly present also in Derrida – that appears worthy of further studies to us, as far as its prerequisites and theoretical outcomes are concerned.
Obviously, to dedicate an issue to this theme and these authors does not mean to offer an assertive or definitive answer to the question “What is institution?” Nor is it, however, a mere sceptical surrender, or a matter of limiting oneself to acknowledging the great number of rival theoretical perspectives and research styles. Rather, one has to face the fact, itself in need of explanation, that diverse phenomena, which are very difficult to connect to a common essence, are collected together under the same term. Preparing this issue, we have thus become convinced that it is not necessary to solve complex problems of classification, or to produce a complete ordering based on rigid categorical partitions: a many-voiced exploration that allows to detect connections, areas of indiscernibility, and family resemblances is more productive. We are convinced that it is precisely by attending to such border areas and trans-disciplinary procedures – which is precisely what is done in all the essays in this collection – that a research oriented in this direction can derive more benefits.
In conclusion, choosing institution as a theme means more than one thing. First, it means to identify an “object” that, for the changes involved, in law, in society and in history, requires an openness to treading new paths, without forgetting the vast historical background of its origin. After all – and this is the other fundamental result of a philosophical reflection on institution – the decisive element of the institutionalist paradigm is the recovering of historicity – not of historicism –, with its capacity to link past and present in a dynamic relationship with what has been previously elaborated. Thought itself, Philosophy itself, from this point of view, is a “recursive” institution whose fate is to “reactivate” and relaunch in the future segments of reflections sedimented in the past. As Hauriou maintains, ideas, rather than forming ex novo, are found and re-elaborated within new semantic blocks (for example, old religious institutions seem to resurface, almost like an underground karstic process, in today’s financial sys-tems). Choosing institution as a theme means, second, to indicate some critical lines along which some traditional conceptual oppositions – such as history/nature, law/justice, social/political – take on a new, and more complex, articulation. And it is, third, to offer grounds for resisting those research programmes that limit themselves to addressing one side of the problem, subscribing to forms of rationalism and scientism that advance a claim to self-sufficiency from which Husserl already resolutely distanced himself; and, by contrast, to show the heuristic value of a thought or way of doing Philosophy capable of more agile and less rigid strategies.
Finally, a prevailing attention to French thought will be noticed in the materials collected here. As compared to other traditions, it is in that cultural milieu – from anthropological and ethnological studies to judicial and philosophical ones – that the challenge posed by the crisis of modern political lexicon has been faced head-on, in the terms of that vitalisme social which Hauriou himself discerned in current institutions, as well as in those that can be imagined for the future. It is such an imagination that we wish to enhance and stimulate with the essays contained in this issue of Discipline Filosofiche.

(click on the titles to view the abstracts)

Enrica Lisciani-Petrini, Massimo Adinolfi, Introduction
Roberto Esposito, Per un pensiero istituente
Marco Pavanini, L’istituzione come proprio dell’umano. Un approccio antropo-tecnologico
Enrico Redaelli, L’istituzione come espressione e sistema differenziale: Marcel Mauss da Durkheim a Lévi-Strauss
Enrica Lisciani-Petrini, Merleau-Ponty: potenza dell’istituzione
Mattia Di Pierro, Il concetto di istituzione in Claude Lefort
Alfredo Ferrarin, La prassi, l’istituzione, l’immaginario in Castoriadis
Massimo Adinolfi, Performatività, contesto, istituzione in Jacques Derrida
Giacomo Pezzano, Una specie sovraumana. Istituzioni e natura umana secondo Deleuze
Paolo Napoli, Une institution administrative. Le feedback à 360 degrés
Frédéric Worms, Les institutions vitales, de la violation à la démocratie