Post-war Italian intellectual culture can be analysed by way of three distinct yet overlapping phases. The first period – 1944 to 1968 – is characterised mainly by a drive by intellectuals to establish Marxism as the dominant critical theory. During this period, against opposing ideas from the centre (Crocean liberal secularism and catholic modernity) and the right of centre (conservative Catholicism), Marxism increasingly came to dominate the public sphere; so much so indeed that influential intellectual currents – phenomenology, hermeneutics, semiotics, positivism, existentialism, textual criticism, Neo-Hegelianism, structural linguistics – looked to Marxist ideas as points of reference against which to set themselves off. 1968 was the year which signalled the triumph of Marxism in Italy; a second period, lasting from 1968 to 1986, was marked by a massive production of cultural knowledge from within the Marxist paradigm. However, it was also characterised by an increasing fragmentation of the left. As a result, it was during this period that turbulent struggles arose between various Marxist forces.
This fragmentation also created a space for the re-emergence of philosophical theories inspired by Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas and others that opposed Marxist interpretations of history, the subject and agency. Thus, the third period, from 1986 to 1999, witnessed a dismantling of the Marxist project to the extent that positions derived from French postmodernism gradually displaced Marxism altogether. It was also during this last phase that Italy's cultural politics – which had previously been organised in relation to modernist notions, such as the territorial state, high cultures and national identities – were gradually opened up to new conceptions of culture, reflecting an increasing awareness of global issues.