Intellectuals, philosophy, and socialist strategy

Bates, D. (2013) Intellectuals, philosophy, and socialist strategy. In: Thinking the Political: The Work of Ernesto Laclau, 10-12 April 2013, University of Brighton. (Unpublished)

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The publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy in 1985 marked the birth of ‘post-Marxism’ as a counter-hegemonic philosophical movement. This movement considered ‘the critique of essentialism… as the sine qua non of a new vision for the Left conceived in terms of a radical plural democracy’. (See Mouffe, 1993: frontis.) The response from the ‘old’ left was ‘robust’. For Wood (1986) Laclau and Mouffe’s work was representative of a form of retreat of the left, a retreat evident initially in the work of Nicos Poulantzas. And Geras (1987) provocatively maintained that Laclau and Mouffe’s approach ought not to be viewed as ‘post-Marxism’ so much as a form of ‘ex-Marxism’, and an ex-Marxism ‘without substance’ to boot.

This initial polemical encounter between ‘old’ and ‘new’ left was prior to the epochal shift brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is perhaps better understood in the context of the ‘crisis of socialism’, a crisis brought about by a ‘defeat’ of the social democratic project by neo-liberalism. Post Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Laclau (and with Mouffe) continued to develop the arguments put forward in 1985, to the realities faced by the left after 1989.

This paper will re-evaluate Laclau and Mouffe’s political philosophy in light of the criticisms of the ‘Marxist’ left, and the more current realities faced by the socialist project. How have these ‘realities’ impacted on our understanding of the possibilities for socialist’ strategy, or a ‘radical democratic’ politics? I will assess Laclau and Mouffe’s arguments pertaining to hegemony, ‘articulation’, and the relationship between ‘universalism’ and ‘particularism’. These issues will be addressed through an exploration of the significance of Laclau and Mouffe’s work for an understanding of the political role of the intellectual both in relation to the socialist tradition and ‘radical democracy’.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > Applied Social Sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr David Bates
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2013 15:45
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 14:11

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00