Ernesto Laclau's passing away has caused a great stir in the international Left. It has lost one of its most insightful political thinkers. We publish here Íñigo Errejón's tribute to Laclau, a very timely reminder of the urgent actuality of Laclau's life-long reflections on hegemony, left-wing strategies, and the knotty question of populism.
Although I had a few of his books on the shelves of my childhood home, it was not until the last year of my degree that I read Ernesto Laclau, together with his personal and intellectual compañera Chantal Mouffe, for a 2005-6 seminar by Professor Javier Franzé. I remember how dense and complex the fragment of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy struck me as, and I would later return to it pencil in hand. But certainly already it shook up some of my certainties and opened up a field of intellectual curiosity to which I would subsequently devote myself. Some time later, passing through Buenos Aires after a year of living and researching in Bolivia, I bought On Populist Reason, as I was already obsessed with understanding the national-popular in Latin America and passionate about working through some of its ambivalences. This was in 2009. In May 2011, three days after the 15 May protests, I defended my doctoral thesis at the Universidad Complutense, its title being ‘The MAS’s struggle for hegemony in Bolivia (2006-2009): a discursive analysis’. The work of Ernesto Laclau (to repeat: and also Chantal Mouffe) and their neo-Gramscian school of thought played a central theoretical role in my thesis.
Earlier this month the international Left lost one of its most astute political thinkers. Ernesto Laclau, the political theorist who had the ear of the Kirchners, was interviewed by La Nación journalist Diego Sehinkman last November for the ‘Politicians on the sofa’ series.
My ‘meeting’ with Ernesto Laclau – the political theorist whom the Kirchner governments listened to perhaps more than any other – took the form of a telephone call to England, where he lived since 1969.
You have achieved the dream of almost any intellectual, that is, being consulted by a president…
Yes, I have indeed been consulted. I have had an open, cordial relationship with Argentina’s recent presidents.
From Tuesday 29th January, a fortnightly series of events at the ICA in London launching the latest set in the Radical Thinkers series will introduce the thought of Gillian Rose, Max Stirner, Edward W. Said, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, and Sheila Rowbotham.
The books are from Set 8 of Verso’s beautiful Radical Thinkers set. You can discover more about the set and peruse the complete list of authors featured here.
The following offers some suggested preliminary background material ahead of the events.
Critical Theory will be publishing regular excerpts from these titles and more from Radical Thinkers Set 8. Excerpts from Freud and the Non-European and Women, Resistance and Revolution are now available at the links provided below, with more to follow from The Melancholy Science, The Ego and Its Own and Hegemony and Socialist Strategy.
Critical Theory is also running a giveaway of Radical Thinkers Set 8 titles. Details for how to enter are here.