Italo Alves



Mass Dandyism (2021–present)

In my dissertation, I explore the phenomenon of “mass dandyism”: the use of aristocratic modes of behavior and self-presentation by marginalized social groups. I am interested in understanding why these groups mobilize these strategies and what they are able to achieve politically. My research focuses on postcolonial contexts and the ways in which aristocratic values inform the practical routines of subaltern groups. By mass dandyism, I am referring to the practices of disenfranchised individuals or subcultures who use expensive and conspicuous forms of dress, engage in highly stylized forms of self-presentation, and cultivate values of refinement and sophistication. I argue that modernity creates a need for aesthetic self-expression, but not everyone has equal access to the means of self-expression. As a result, people engage in struggles to express themselves. I explore the connections between aesthetic experience, self-expression, self-presentation, and political action. I theorize what I believe is a continuum between experiencing the social world, expressing that experience in everyday life, and interpreting that expression in a reconstructive theory of society.

Immanent Critique and the Normativity of Social Performance (2018–2021)

In this study, I discuss the role of non-discursive practices in immanent social critique, paying special attention to the issue of the normative capacity of these practices. My central question is whether it is possible to identify normative capacity in the nondiscursive aspect of social practices. My hypothesis is positive. I argue that the symbolic, ritualistic, aesthetic, or—under the specific focus of this study—performative aspect of social practices not only expresses socially established norms of action but also reacts to them, and is therefore capable of raising normative claims. The study reconstructed the methodological categories of “practice-based immanent critique” and “normative reconstruction” from the works of contemporary critical theorists Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth, pointing out their limits in theorizing performative aspects of action. The study aimed to offer a contribution to the question concerning the object of social critique from the field of performance studies, especially from the work of Erving Goffman.

Dissensus and Normativity in the Public Sphere (2016–2018)

In this project, I explored the role of dissensus in a theory of social normativity. I examined the fundamental elements of Jürgen Habermas' deliberative theory of social normativity and argued that, in a project of normative justification, both consensus and dissensus play a significant role. I provide a basic overview of Habermas' theory, which includes the concepts of discourse, consensus, and the public sphere, and then break down the theory into three different realms: politics, the political, and the dispute for politicity. I argued that (a) politics is a realm of the institutions of liberal democracy, where dissensus takes the form of conflict among groups and models of public spheres, having the role of keeping the public sphere multiple and inclusive; (b) the political is the realm of interaction of discourses about the imperative of human coexistence in the world, where dissensus takes the form of adversariness and has the role of maintaining the disagreement necessary for pluralism; and (c) the dispute for politicity is the pre-discursive realm where struggles for the capacity to issue political claims take place, where dissensus has the role of pointing out the unjustified partiality of the discursive genre as the only one capable of conveying social interactions with normative potential.