On Populist Reason
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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 Žižek, Hardt and Negri, and Ranciere. This book is essential reading for all those interested in the question of political identities in present-day societies.
upheaval, all of which reminded the author, we are told, of disguised epilepJ)'. These upheavals included: (a) social convul sion and/or civil war; (b) enthusiasm, such as cult, nation, and religion; (c) external war against nations . . . . Such a focus highlights the deliberate choice made, considering the availability of portrayals of crowds at the same time . . . . We had already remarked that simultaneous to the crowd psychology there was an abundant literature on syndicalism and
PULIST R EA S O N To focus on them was the most original contribution made by crowd theory to the understanding of social agency and social action. Why, however, did crowd psychologists ultimately fail? It is not difficult to find the reason: because of their ideological anti-popular bias; because they framed their discourses within stark and sterile dichotomies - the individual! the crowd; the rational! the irrational; the normal! the patho logical. It is enough, however, to introduce some
contrary, ftnding populist movements where �evera� of th�� are missing. In that case, the only thing we are left with l� the unposslbility of deftning the term - not a very satisfactory situa . tIon as far as soctal analysis is concerned. I would like, right from the beginning, to advance a hypothesis which . . will gutde our theoretical exploration: that the impasse that Political Theory experiences in relation to populism is far from accidental for it � � is r� ted in th limitation of the
untenable. Since Wittgenstein, we know milieu. For such a vision of society, the image of social agents whose that language games comprise both linguistic exchanges and actions in identities are constituted around diffuse populist symbols can only be an which they are embedded, and speech-act theory has put on a new expression of irrationality. The ethical denigration that Minogue's essay footing the study of the discursive sequences constituting social institu reflects is in fact shared
necessarily to be the status of a full rationality. I should stress that this relegation has been imprecise (otherwise they could not cover all the particularities that they possible only because, from the very beginning, a strong element of are supposed to regroup). If things are so, however, is not this logic of ethical condemnation has been present in the consideration of populis simplification, and of making some terms imprecise, the very condition tic movements. Populism has not only