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Emancipation(s)

Laclau argues that the changes of the late twentieth century have altered Enlightenment notions of emancipation.
In Emancipation(s), Ernesto Laclau addresses a central question: how have the changes of the last decade, together with the transformation in contemporary thought, altered the classical notion of “emancipation” as formulated since the Enlightenment? Our visions of the future and our expectations of emancipation, have been deeply affected by the changes of recent history: the end of the Cold War, the explosion of new ethnic and national identities, the social fragmentation under late capitalism, and the collapse of universal certainties in philosophy and social and historical thought. Laclau here begins to explore precisely how our visions of emancipation have been recast under these new conditions.

Laclau examines the internal contradictions of the notion of “emancipation” as it emerged from the mainstream of modernity, as well as the relation between universalism and particularism which is inherent in it. He explores the making of political identities and the status of central notions in political theory such as “representation” and “power,” focusing particularly on the work of Derrida and Rorty. Emancipation(s) is a significant contribution to the reshaping of radical political thought.

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  • Translation and Conflict: The Violence of the Universal — a conversation with Étienne Balibar

    Jean Birnbaum's interview with Étienne Balibar about his new book Des Universals was first published in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder. 



    You recently published a book on the question of the universal (Des Universals, Paris: Galilée, 2016). This notion, which seems so familiar, however often remains rather unclear. If you had to give a definition to a class of 17 year olds, what would you say?

    I would say that it is a value that designates the possibility of being equal without necessarily being the same, and thus of being citizens without having to be culturally identical.

    Indeed, in our era universalism is often associated with consensus, and first of all with a bien pensant Left, presumed to be weak and naïve… Yet in your view universalism is anything but an idealism.

    First of all, my objective is not to uphold a "left-wing position," but to debate universalism as a philosophical question. Of course, I am on the Left, but the Left itself is is traversed by all the conflicts inherent to the question of the universal. The universal does not bring people together, it divides them. Violence is a constant possibility. But I first of all seek to describe internal conflicts.

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  • Negri on Hegemony: Gramsci, Togliatti, Laclau

    In light of recent developments in Europe that have brought questions of hegemony, populism and organisation to the foreground, Toni Negri asks: where does the thought of Ernesto Laclau leave us on this score? The following talk was given at Maison de l’Amerique Latine in Paris, 27 May 2015. Translated by David Broder; see the original French text here.

    By Toni Negri

    I would like to talk very schematically about what Ernesto Laclau’s work has meant to me, and the dialogue that the two of us had, particularly in recent years. This was a simultaneously close and critical dialogue, marked by evident differences, but it was also characterised by very great respect; and again today I would like to emphasise my esteem for Laclau.

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  • "Don't they represent us?": A discussion between Jacques Rancière and Ernesto Laclau

    Is representation necessary, or antithetical, to the democratic will? In light of the significant gains made by the indignados in the Spanish municipal and regional elections on Sunday, we publish a discussion about democracy and representation between Jacques Rancière, the inspiration for much analysis of the 15-M movement, and Ernesto Laclau, an important theoretical reference point for Podemos


    Amador Fernández-Savater introduces a discussion between the philosophers Jacques Rancière and Ernesto Laclau. Translated by David Broder, from El Diario

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