As Europe's political climate is increasingly defined by an assurgent left populism, we re-publish Razmig Keucheyan's discussion of political theorist Ernesto Laclau, whose theoretical legacy is a critical engagement with this problematic realised today in Greece and Spain. This piece was originally published in Keucheyan's cartography of the contemporary world's leading critical thinkers; The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Thinking Today.
The decline of the Izquierda Unida (IU), the Front de Gauche’s traditional partner in Spain, is a collateral effect of the rise of Podemos. In this interview with Mediapart, Alberto Garzón, a candidate for the IU leadership, argues that Podemos’s ‘caesarism’ provides no solutions. He calls for the different Left forces to converge in the run up to the elections. This piece, from the viewpoint of Podemos's political rivals in the established Spanish Left, provides a critique of Podemos and the populism that has been inspired by Argentinian political theorist Ernesto Laclau.
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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.