”The political” and emancipatory politics - reflections on Laclau and Mouffe

Bates, D. (2015) ”The political” and emancipatory politics - reflections on Laclau and Mouffe. In: Neo Liberalism and Post Politics, 20th March, 2015, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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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. The paper will look in particular at Mouffe’s The Return of the Political (1993), and Laclau’s On Populist Reason (2005) and The Rhetorical Foundations of Society (2014).

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. I will assess Laclau and Mouffe’s arguments pertaining to hegemony, ‘the political’, ‘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, ‘radical democracy’ and possible alternatives to the neo-liberal project.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
J Political Science > JC Political theory
K Law
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Depositing User: Dr David Bates
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2015 13:37
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 14:34
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/13678

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