The Portuguese constitution, passed in April 1976, considered the nationalisations undertaken after the Carnation Revolution to be 'irreversible', prescribing a development model based on state planning. Changes made to the constitutional text, in 1989, allowed for a privatisation programme that curtailed government intervention and reinforced market provision. This mirrored a previous shift in the public sphere. Whereas political debate in 1976 was mostly centred on state-led development models, the next decade witnessed the rise of a pro-market approach. Two crises of the balance of payments encouraged a growing number of economists, businessmen, journalists and politicians to argue for the need to revise the constitution, enhancing the role and scope of markets. This article focuses on the rise of a neoliberal intellectual field in Portugal between 1976 and 1989, analysing its efforts to overcome the legacy of the Carnation Revolution and build a competitive market order in a semiperipheral context.