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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.


  • “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.”


  • Mélenchon: A Radical Reformist Against Mounting Oligarchy

    The Belgian philosopher Chantal Mouffe — a thinker who inspires French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon — defended her project in a column appearing in the 15 April edition of Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.

    Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s breakthrough into third place in the presidential polls has unleashed a campaign by defenders of the status quo trying to pass him off as a "communist revolutionary." After long having dismissed Mélenchon, part of the press is now working to destroy the credibility of his programme, presented as the "cloud-cuckoo-land plans of the French Chávez."

    Painted as a dangerous extremist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon is attacked by all those who think that there is no alternative to neoliberal globalisation. For them, democracy requires acceptance of the "post-political consensus" established among the centre-left and centre-right parties. Any questioning of this consensus must be the work of populist demagogues.

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  • Benoît Hamon and Universal Income

    Antonio Negri's commentary on French Socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon's proposal for a universal income first appeared in 
    EuroNomade. Translated by David Broder.

    There is something strange about taking interest in an electoral campaign again: it is a long time since this happened to me. When I saw Benoît Hamon on TV after he won the French Socialist primaries I felt — with a certain surprise — something of a breath of fresh air. Hamon won the Socialist primaries promising an unconditional citizen income, at a decent level. I will say right away: it is impossible that this proposal could determine a definitive break with this rotten system. Indeed, a series of interventions by friends and enemies alike implacably told us how alone he is on this score. They said, one after the other: Hamon talks about robots and automation; he says we need only go to the supermarket in order to realise the extent and depth of the rarefaction of work; and who denies it?; but that this is something quite different from asserting the need to set as the objective for labour governance not full employment, but citizen income... But where does he want to take us? What he is saying is just tall tales, unrealisable utopias, naïve fables.

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  • Stuart Hall: Gramsci and Us

    On this day in 1891 one of the most influential Marxists of the 21st Century, Antonio Gramsci, was born in the small town of Ales in Sardinia. Gramsci's work transformed how we think about a Marxist politics. Whereas the Russian Revolution occured in the "backward" Russia, and as such was as much a revolution against the "old regime" as against capital, Gramsci attempted to wrestle with the question of how we build a revolutionary movement in the developed areas of Western Europe. In particular it was his development of the concept of "hegemony" which was to prove the most influential. In this piece, from the great Stuart Hall and published in The Hard Road to Renewal, Hall attempts to expand these insights of Gramsci's to analyse the "regressive modernisation" of Thatcher. In an age where many are tackling the question of how to build a new left modernity, Gramsci and Hall are as relevant as ever.

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Other books by Ernesto Laclau