Carl Schmitt’s thought serves as a warning against the dangers of complacency entailed by triumphant liberalism. His conception of politics is a sharp challenge to those who believe that the blurring of frontiers between the left and right and the increasing mobilization of political discourse constitute great advances for democracy. Schmitt reminds us forcefully that the essence of politics is a struggle and that the distinction between friend and enemy cannot be abolished.
Raphaëlle Besse Desmoulières' profile of Chantal Mouffe first appeared in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Chantal Mouffe. via YouTube.
Looking through Chantal Mouffe’s desk diary is like leafing through an atlas of Europe. Madrid, Athens, Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris: here the cities line up as her travels demand. In late October, upon the invitation of the Mémoire des luttes association, the Belgian philosopher was in the French capital for a "dialogue" with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, La France insoumise’s ["Rebellious France’s"] candidate for the 2017 presidential elections. "Mélenchon’s project is a left-populist one, even if I am not sure that he will present it like that," explains the political theory professor from London’s Westminster University. "But he constructs what we would call the 'populist' political boundary: the people against the establishment."
On 8 July 2015 the Belgian political scientist Chantal Mouffe was in Bogotá to give a talk on ‘democracy and passion’ at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango. Before the meeting, Palabras al Margen  spoke to her about the contemporary meaning of populism and democracy as well as the experience of certain social movements in Europe, in light of the Latin American situation. Translated by David Broder.
Palabras al Margen: What is the relevance of your influential work Hegemony and Socialist Strategy today, thirty years since its publication?
Chantal Mouffe: When we wrote the book it was clear that it was necessary to rethink socialism in a way that would also incorporate the demands of the new social movements – from feminism to ecology and gay struggles. And that is still now a highly relevant question. However, I would not today propound a theoretical project trying to reformulate socialism — for whereas when we wrote Hegemony the idea of socialism was central, that is not the case today. In that moment, we advocated reformulating the socialist project in terms of the radicalisation of democracy. We thought that it wasn’t enough to think a socialist project within the limited terms of working-class demands alone. Today the great difference between a Left project and a right-wing one is rooted in the fact that only the former can uphold any kind of radicalisation of democracy.
April 11, 2017