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On Populist Reason

Major analysis of the forces that drive populism and their relation to democracy.
In this highly original work Ernesto Laclau continues the philosophical and political exploration initiated in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Here he focuses on the construction of popular identities and how "the people" emerge as a collective actor. Skillfully combining theoretical analysis with a myriad of empirical references from numerous historical and geographical contexts he offers a critical reading of the existing literature on populism, demonstrating its dependency on the theorists of "mass psychology" such as Taine and Freud. He demonstrates the relation of populism to democracy and to the logic of representation, and differentiates his approach from the work of Zizek, Hardt and Negri, and Ranciere. This book is essential reading for all those interested in the question of political identities in present-day societies.

Reviews

  • “What needs to be politically articulated at the present time is the possibility of a leftist populism. This is what makes Laclau's long-awaited book so important. Arguably, populism has always been the governing concept in Laclau's work and in On Populist Reason, he lays out his position with great power and analytical clarity.”

Blog

  • A Joint and a Compass: Razmig Keucheyan on political theory today

    There is a famous line in Lenin saying that "without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." That is a very profound phrase. Theory serves for two things: to join together struggles that are apparently unrelated, and also as a compass in periods of crisis. It is what tells you whether in this precise moment you should be smashing up banks or standing in elections.

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  • Building a Political Alternative: Stathis Kouvelakis on the French Presidential Election

    Feyzi Ismail's interview with Stathis Kouvelakis — a member of the Greek Popular Unity party and a supporter of La France Insoumise — about Emmanuel Macron's victory in the French presidential election and the prospects for the radical left was first published at Counterfire


    France Insoumise International Women's Day demonstration, March 2017. via Flickr.

    What is your assessment of Macron's victory over Le Pen and how did we get to this?


    We shouldn't underestimate the danger of Le Pen's result of 34.5%, even if she wasn't elected. This is a solid performance that makes her appear as a credible alternative for power, which means the slogan we have been hearing that says "Macron in 2017 equals Le Pen in 2022" has the potential to become true. This is one essential reason why against all odds the left should have been supporting a tactical vote for Macron for the second round. Abstention under these conditions was not an option.

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  • Attacks on "populism" seek to enshrine the idea that there is no alternative

    This essay by Jacques Rancière was published in Libération in January 2011, and then heavily revised for its Spanish publication in the multi-author volume ¿Qué es el pueblo?. Translated from the Spanish version, with reference to the French original, by David Broder.


    via Wikimedia Commons.

    Not a day goes by without someone in Europe denouncing the risks of populism. But it is not easy to grasp what exactly this word means. In the Latin America of the 1930s and 1940s, it served to designate a certain mode of government, passing over parliamentary forms of representation in favour of a relationship whereby a people was directly embodied by its leader.

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Other books by Ernesto Laclau