In this highly original and influential work, Ernesto Laclau focuses on the construction of popular identities and how “the people” emerge as a collective actor. Skilfully 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. On Populist Reason is essential reading for all those interested in the question of political identities in the present day.
“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.”
“On Populist Reason helped to explain the rise of the new leftist sentiment sweeping Latin America from Venezuela to Ecuador to Argentina—he was a key influence on Kirchner, who valued Laclau’s support in reaching out beyond his Peronista base to the grassroots activists who had been occupying hundreds of factories. Laclau’s sympathy for the Latin American new left was most unwelcome to those who were alarmed by the mobilisation of the poor and excluded.”
“There is no doubt that Laclau’s is an extremely important contribution to political theory. He demonstrates, through exemplification, the workings of populism and, by extension, hegemonic politics. But he also reveals the limits of that politics, not least the way in which it defuses and undoes political difference.”
“The work of many of us would have never been the same without the intellectual influence of Ernesto Laclau, one of the most gifted political thinkers of his generation. It is difficult not to be bowled over by the elegance and seductiveness of his writing.”