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.