Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics

Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic PoliticsWhereas someone like Althusser is mainly interesting as an episode of Marxist intellectual history, Laclau and Mouffe remain extremely relevant to social struggles today This book was published in the mid eighties, when neoliberalism was still relatively new The authors seek to outline an antidote, or counter hegemonic project which here goes by the name of radical democracy For all their rebarbative philosophical jargon, these pages often have the feel of a manifesto This is particularly so of the last chapter.Unlike dogmatists of the old left, the authors see the value of the new social movements environmentalism, feminism, anti racism, gay rights, etc However, they also recognize the danger that these movements would lead to greater fragmentation and isolation, to the fetishization of difference as an end in itself, giving capital a free pass to continue plundering the commons.Thirty years on and unfortunately it looks like the latter isor less what s happened Obviously it would be too much to expect a mere book to halt capitalism in its tracks The good news, if there is any, is that the struggle is far from over Laclau recently passed but Mouffe is still very much alive and publishing More importantly, their work has been the inspiration to Syriza and Podemos, two of the most vital insurgent groups on the left in recent years.Neoliberalism continues it reign, but, as recent events indicate, it may have entered an openly absurdist phase, in which its given up any claim to reason or normativity The call for radically democratic socialist movement has never beenurgent. Laclau and Mouffe have developed a theory of hegemony, after Antonio Gramsci, that isfluid and less determined by the ascendancy of one social or economic class it is, in short, a postmodern reflection on Gramsci They begin by positing that there are countless groups within a society, each with a series of perspectives and views Because of this plurality of groups, it is not possible to know which groups will coalesce into a bloc and be able, through their agreed upon ideas also coming together, to exercise hegemony Different groups have many possible bloc allies In the United States, there have been times when Jews and African Americans have united and worked together, for example, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there have been other times when these groups have not been able to work together politically in an harmonious fashion, as with the anti Jewish slogans of some members of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan, for instance What blocs form and produce a new hegemony depends upon a number of factors the particular issues which become most salient and lead to groups choosing up sides on which position to take with respect to the emergent agenda, pre existing interests and views characteristic of the group, and the extent to which segments of different groups views can be articulated together in alliance with other groups to become a bloc To use the language of post structuralism, each potential antagonism of one group with another is a floating signifier, .a wild antagonism which does not predetermine the form in which it can be articulated linked up to other elements in a social system Further, rapid change is possible in a current hegemony The groups bound together as a bloc may find their articulation coming apart at the seams latent antagonisms may come to the fore and lead to a rearticulation of interests into a new bloc Thus, hegemonies are unstable for Laclau and Mouffe whereas they tend to be muchstable from Gramsci s perspective The end result is that dominant views can change swiftly, and the ideas that have led to one set of leaders may disintegrate, precipitating new leaders and new political agendas Most dramatically, consider the Soviet Union Who can forget the rapid collapse of the old Bolshevik apparatus, after seventy years of hegemony Seemingly, overnight the forces of openness put into motion by Mikhail Gorbachev tore apart the previous grand hegemony However, there is plenty of potential for a new hegemony developing that will be much less supportive of democratic impulses Witness events occurring in recent years under the presidency of Vladimir Putin This is a difficult work to plow through Nonetheless, it is a fascinating book and worth the effort to make sense of it. . Ms Thatcher was a post structuralist, or the birth of non politicsThrough my ratings, reviews and edits I m providing intellectual property and labor to .com Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns Goodreads.com and in 2013 posted revenues for 74 billion and 274 million profits Intellectual property and labor require compensation .com Inc is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company s sites.I suggest reading this from the end, where the problem eventually emerges that justified that whole project , i.e the difficulty encountered by political theorists to situate new movements such as feminism and environmentalism on the map of traditional political antagonisms To solve the problem, the authors in the central part of the book have no other option but to say that a definition of society is not possible, even though it has family resemblances with a precarious web of subjectivities without centre and fixed geometries Which is probably existentially accurate and epistemologically true.But poltics is not the field of the epistemologically true Politics is the domain of what you want aka desire , somewhat unconvincingly The authors frame very well what the Right wants and accurately describe an ideology that by 1985 has gained the upper hand aka hegemony by promoting a crystallized vision of social order and the economy that is thepowerful for lacking any epistemological foundation whatsoever.Why is the Left losing ground then Because of its obsession with the epistemologically discredited ideas of revolution and class Democracy which never gets a proper epistemological treatment the authors thus betray having a conscience demands instead to embrace pluralism and to make alliances across pluralistic struggles e.g feminism environmentalism anti capitalism to engage not in a revolution but in a war of position.All of the above is not Gramsci s fault though he had other problems to solve.Thirty years later, under triumphant neo liberalism and collapsing environmental conditions, it is too easy to see the world divided quite undemocratically between exploiters and exploited, in a truly zero sum game played on a global scale Two classes If you re an exploiter, does it really matter who washes the dishes Can the exploited articulate an hegemony with those among the exploiters who no longer want to wash up What is certainly not fixed is how you define your antagonistic classes this is politics job But denying antagonism in favour of a thousand flowers supposed to bloom is to mistake participation within the safe boundaries of one s class non politics for a game that cannot be safe for everyone politics Ms Thatcher saw the wondrous potential of the non politics in a non society rhetoric and touted it, while engaging in a very political game of her own. This was ridiculously difficult to read, and essentially presumes you have already read and fully understood all of your radical philosophers from Adorno to Althusser and on through the entire alphabet So I am still thinking it through, and I am still not entirely sure that this is the most useful way to think about hegemony Probably because I haven t yet quite grasped what the hell they are talking about Having just read Gramsci seemed to make it even harder to see how their discourse connects to his But I do think it is a very provocative radical critique of Marxism While I m not at all a good Marxist, I still don t know if I m entirely ready to jettison class all together But I found both useful and very important the final chapter on radical and plural democracy, which I fully agree needs to be the centerpiece of a successful left movement I d definitely recommend the first half of Mark Purcell s Recapturing Democracy if you have trouble with this, had I not read that I probably wouldn t have had the commitment to see this little book through Additionally if you don t really care how this fits into and critiques the canon of elite left thinking, you could just read the last chapter and think about democracy, it is the most accessible, though that s not saying a huge amount I can t promise to have understand this book wholly and that isn t a criticism, because complexity is justifiable, although sometimes this is needlessly dense but I did find it interesting, convincing and useful especially towards the end I agree with much of Laclau and Mouffe s argument about the need to move beyond a narrow focus on Class State Economy to connect struggles over multiple antagonisms in multiple sites, and the consequent importance of a strategy of hegemony I appreciated their insistence on a rigorous examination of concepts which abound on the Left.But that does not mean that I did not have concerns It might be a little unfair to criticise a work of philosophy for historical inadequacy, but I was struck by the way that as Lars Lih points out in his New Socialist interview Laclau and Mouffe focus on the content of theoretical debates between major thinkers Now, these debates are of course interesting and significant and much of the book is intended to argue that precisely such debates can be important but I find this focus unconvincing Perhaps Laclau and Mouffee would flinch at Lih saying that the high level ideological justifications put forth by Mensheviks and Bolsheviks in 1917 and repeated today were not the base but rather the superstructure of their political stands , but Laclau and Mouffe s inattention to the history of the revolution from below compromises their arguments especially where Laclau and Mouffe s assumptions differ from the incomparablyscholarly findings of someone like Lih Closer to my own area of research, a number of Laclau and Mouffe s statements are sweeping and simplistic the monolithic transvestite that Marxism Leninism presented as the history of Marxism , the construction of a ghetto where the working class led a self focused and segregated existence , a clear separation within the masses between the leading sectors and those which are led , etc There is a sense that Laclau and Mouffe were happy to take both communist and anti communist intellectuals at their word, rather than trying to understand the practices of revolutionaries making revolution The overarching historical assumption which justifies their argument, over about the decline of a monolithic politics of class, the growth of new social movements, etc is also not without problems, and although broadly correct it would probably be challenged by most historians working on those themes Related to this is the inattention which Laclau and Mouffe pay to revolutions in the periphery though theoretically important to their argument, there is little engagement with the works of e.g Fanon and the almost total dismissal of Mao near to zero philosophical value and Maoism, despite quite considerable overlaps of interest and their rather greater political significance.Without wishing to judge a book by its preface, I suspect these problems feed into the quite remarkable, given the way Laclau and Mouffe are applauded for prescience apparent failure to predict or really understand any of the developments since the book s original publication I think, for example, of the comment that We never thought, though, that discarding the Jacobin friend enemy model of politics as an adequate paradigm for democratic politics should lead to the adoption of the liberal one directly opposite the statement that there cannot be a radical politics without the definition of an adversary , it feels like a shift has been undergone which the authors won t own up to At the very least, there should be a recognition that the friend enemy model needs to be exploded and not simply discarded Similarly, it s extraordinary that Laclau and Mouffe bemoan the lack in their discourse of any reference to a possible alternative to the present economic order, which is taken as the only feasible one as if acknowledging the illusory character of a total break with a market economy necessarily precluded the possibility of different modes of regulation of market forces and meant that there was no alternative to a total acceptance of their logics The point is that this was foreseeable there are echoes in LM s comment, in the closing pages of the original, that the laicization of politics had risked the total expulsion of utopia from the field of the political and that the authors should have recognised the damage that the fall of the USSR would do to the Left Instead, even in the preface, Laclau and Mouffe seem to accept the Cold War narrative of the triumph of democracy over its communist adversary avoiding the consequences of abandoning the struggle for communism for a whether they like it or not narrowed politics of democracy. Laclau and Mouffe do a contemporary reading of Gramscian style critical theory Bringing Marxism into the current, Post Marxist phase as many of the theoretical modes of analysis popularized during the 60 s and 70 s were simply unable to stop the spread of the Conservative hegemony that dominated the 1980 s Unfortunately, like other fads popularized during the 1980 s Flock of Seagulls haircuts, Bon Jovi, and Stone Washed Jeans this grandiose style of writing has fallen out of favor Almost every single tactical point made by LM has been appropriated by the Right Remember, this book was published prior to the 24 hour news cycle that currently dominates the cable networks Namely Fox News as well as AM Radio Interestingly enough, one of my favorite parts in this book happens towards the end when they deconstruct Neo Classical Liberalist Political Theory, by going through various Right Wing theorists namely Milton Friedman, Frederick Hayek, and Robert Nozick and then systematically deconstruct all of these position This section is poigniant for the simple fact that when this book was published in 1985 the West was at the height of Conservative Hegemony Reagan and Thatcherism So it was, and still is quite timely Most of the struggles for hegemony were continued during the 90 s in the form of the Culture Wars For all of the stereotypes about this book being filled with convoluted theory, I found it to be quite readable when I paced myself slowly Clearly its major flaws is the over emphasis on Discourse, at the expense of what Judith Butler might call, Bodies that Matter, and material forms of violence, but for what it is worth, this book is quite the masterpiece Worth reading several times to take in the full effect Yet, its impossible to gauge the full impact of a book like this because it is squarely indebted to the Western Academy, and has been predominantly read by Left Leaning intellectuals Hardly the target audience that needs to hear its message. Lk KezTe Yay Mlanan Hegemonya Ve Sosyalist Strateji, Sosyalist D N D Nyas Ndaki G Ncel A L Mlar N Merkezinde Yer Alan Eserlerden BiriTarihli Ikinci Bask Ya Yazd Klar Yeni Ns Zde Laclau Ve Mouffe,LerdenLere Uzanan De I Imler Silsilesini Incelerken, Sosyalizmin Bitmek Bilmez Krizlerinin Tarihsel Izini S R Yor Sunduklar Radikal Ve O Ulcu Demokrasi Tasar M Yla Siyasal Ve Sosyal Kuram Alan Nda R A An Yazarlar,Y Zy L N Sosyalist Evrelerindeki Nemli Tart Malardan, G N M Z N Yeni M Cadele Bi Imlerine Uzanan Bir Tarihsel Eksende Hegemonya Kavram N Inceliyorlar Ve Bug Nk Sosyal M Cadelelerin Demokratik Kuram A S Ndan Nemini Ortaya KoyuyorlarSovyet Bloku Nun K N , Kapitalizmin Son Evresinde Ger Ekle En D N Mle Birlikte Meydana Kan Yeni Sosyal Ve Politik Kimliklerin Ili Kilerini, Temellerini H Zla Yitiren Sol Tasavvurun Alkant Lar N Etkili Bir Bi Imde Ve Yeni Bir Bak A S Yla Dile Getiren Laclau Ve Mouffe, Post Marksizm Tart Malar N Ate Leyen Isimler Marksizmin Ekonomik Determinizm Kestirmecili Ine Ve S N F M Cadelesinin, Toplumsal Kar Tl K Alanlar N N Merkezine Oturtulmas Na Kar Kan Ikili, T M Kar Tl Klar N Zg Rce Ifade Edilebildi I, Z T G Lerin Birlikteli Ini M Mk N K Lan Bir O Ulculu U N Plana Kar YorlarKlasik Kar Tl Klara O Ulcu Bir Yakla M Getiren Ve Hegemonya Ili Kilerini, G N M Z N Toplumsal At Malar Ba Lam Nda Kavramam Z N Yolunu A An Bu Ba Yap T, T M Zamanlar N Sorular Na Zaman A An Cevaplar Sunuyor Two mad scientists one Argentinian, one Belgian, neither situated in orthodox communist movements pour the corrosive substrate of Derrida and Wittgenstein II onto the theory and history of Marxism Hegemony is hugely engaging in the parts where it doesn t get bogged down in its own theoretical complexity a problem mostly confined to chapters 2 3 and leaves even those fundamentally skeptical of the fine points of Laclau Mouffe s radical democracy project with questions on the social nature of Marxism that can t be dismissed out of hand, but rather should be incorporated.Chapter 1 traces the development of the revolutionary subject, from Marx s purportedly teleological view of the proletariat as inherently destined to make the revolution, to Rosa Luxemburg s constructivist view, Sorel s mythological blocs and, finally, Lenin s anti essentialism in which classes c n take up, but are not confined to, their historical role Influential though all of these thinkers may have been, Laclau Mouffe clearly identify Gramsci as the first radical thinker to arrive anywhere close to the mark of understanding hegemony and how to harness it The entire work, then, is dedicated to radicalizing Gramscian analysis and solutions Chapters 2 and 3 rearticulate this genealogy in terms of post structuralist and deconstructionist theory, with the Saussurean sign theory being the most prevalent and the logic of which was, at least to this reader, the most immediately comprehensible and productive Finally, chapter 4 applies this reworked post marxism to the post 70 s neoliberal landscape and substitutes the old end horizon of communism for the new one of radical democracy.There is a whole lot to unpack in this book for which there simply is no space in this review, so I ll keep myself confined to a few remarks 1 The analytical thrust of the book, professed solutions notwithstanding, seems quite good and rigorous, and marxists should absolutely avoid painting ML as liberal subversives without addressing their very salient observations on the arbitrariness of subjectivity and social politics These writings don t so much undermine Lenin and Mao as well as academize and deepen the hidden assumptions their work relies on Speaking of which, Mao s centring of prime contradictions and their context dependent antagonistic nature chimes hugely well with ML The latter acknowledge this in a rather critical manner In this sense Mao s analyses of contradiction despite their near to zero philosophical value do have the great merit of presenting the terrain of social struggles as a proliferation of contradictions, not all of them referring back to the class principle 2 However, their decentring of capitalism as the generator ofthe main contradictions and oppressions against which hegemonic struggles spring up is questionable and brash Their assertion that the presumptively purely economic mechanistic process of capitalism is, in actuality, built of the same social matter as every other relation in society is thought provoking and not wrong this, however, segues into them renouncing every privileged status economic relations might have in determining people s subject positions, which seems a huge stretch and is not supported by much in the text itself For instance, they take the example of effective worker resistance leading to laws against child labour, power abuse, etc as proof that change happens outside the mechanistic scope of capitalist accumulation one must wonder, though, how they see this as falling outside the scope of the contradictions inherent in capitalism, already theorized by Marx himself The most developed capitalism is not the one that employs people as slaves with barely any pocket money to spend, but rather that which through the systematic strengthening of labour and hence an increase in the cost of employing labour power sees itself forced to expand and intensify the share of dead labour All in all, this rather weak link casts doubt on their thesis that the reality of capitalism is not at least one of the primary contradictions socialism must deal with.3 Why is the result so tame Hegemonizing, fine, and it s true that revolution is not the only moment where a hostile system can be forced to change however, and despite never overtly pointing to specific institutions or concrete tactics, their idea based War of Positions seems to remain confined to the level of discourse which in reality translates to parliaments, protest marches and not a whole lot else While drawing causal links is difficult, it doesn t appear as if, for instance, green marches have done much to cause substantial change that is not wholly subordinated to capital interests Muchinteresting in the scope of, for instance, Vietnam War resistance, were the illegal actions of sabotage, subversion and, sometimes, violence Laclau Mouffe in this work seem partial to falling into this idealist abstractionist trap I might be reading too much into this their framework doesn t explicitly disavow violence and rupture but looking at the modern Left movements that they ve directly or indirectly inspired Sanders, M lenchon, Corbyn, etc their radicality on a political if not theoretical level can be called into question.Effectively articulating and implementing steps towards communism in the first world has so far never produced durable radical structures, which especially in these neo colonial and speciecidal days is of the highest importance Hegemony and Socialist Strategy is an important theoretical stepping stone towards this goal. Although heady, there is a reason why this book approaches post Marxist theory the way in which it does.The basic push this book makes in tracing the history of Marxism is to recognize that formal equivalence creates a meta formality of position that is not equitable with the content occupied by those positions When we measure class struggle or lay upon a social field certain lines of oppression, the different intersections of these lines create nodes that are formally equal but actually different.This concept relates directly to the recent rise in feminism of intersectionality in which different lines of oppression create localized views that cannot cohere In other words in terms of feminism, a white woman that grew up in the 50s will have a different concept of feminism than a young middle eastern woman in college in the 2010s than a young white professional woman working in a corporate office in her 30s in the late 1990s Each of the different social pressures create specific contexts that are inherently unstable While our need to speak of these different pressures for Mouffe and Laclau, in a Marxist context in order to name them and specify how they operate the very act of nominalizing those positions will shift the field so that the context will be subtly different through its articulation This correlates with the fact that oppression and nominalization are both social practices that operate through the articulatory process.Much of the book seeks to introduce us to this quandary.The concept of hegemony arises because of this need to cohere In a way, Mouffe and Laclau introduce a Kantian like transcendentalism in order to force a cohesion of the mass of these inarticulations While each localization sees its context from its own absoluteness, one that necessarily shifts in relation to other points of view, Mouffe and Laclau force coherency by constantly referencing an unchanging signification through the figure of Hegemony Liberalism is often characterized as a calibration of the state to its individuals Social programs and welfare all engender individual optimization through the administration of the commons The concept of Hegemony turns this around because in this view identity for each node is calibrated in relation to Hegemony so that each oppressive struggle can be indirectly relatable for each A transcendental domain is necessary to enforce each node as coexisting with the others In theory this appears to be the same worldview that most political groups have but in truth most political views do not necessarily acknowledge the others as being viable views if a given local view supercedes the others Hegemony is meant to eliminate this problem of localization so that we get, as with Negri and Hardt a kind of multitude While Multitude is written later, in the 2000s, it does share some features with Hegemony, although the concept of multitude isa cacophony of incoherency and in that sense less modernist than Hegemony.This modernist calibration to Hegemony as a teleological formation of each localization does however, run the risk of creating a fascism As seen from the view of Hegemony, as Lauclau and Mouffe acknowledge, a revolution is merely only one minority becoming the State, so that its logic its view becomes the primary deployment of what everything is Hegemony does always risk this problem of a minority of One, just as Hegemony runs the risk that a minority may retain power because all the other majorities do not want their peers to attain apowerful position.In this sense, while a short book, this is a highly theoretical exercise, one that becomes unclear in regards to practice While logically sound, its rationalization is founded on a redeployment of the terms of engagement for progress of minority rights, one that would further highlight the relative instability of maintaining any coherent fairness as any expressible localization will shift through the very act of nominalization While I do not believe they are incorrect, it is difficult to ascertain the pragmatic application of Hegemony in practice In a way, this calibration of identity towards its others suggest a kind of Heidiggerian stance of dasein to mitdasien, although Mouffe and Lauclau do not make the same error of class equivalency that Heidigger, like Marx, also made.

Ernesto Laclau was an Argentine political theorist often described as post Marxist He was a professor at the University of Essex where he holds a chair in Political Theory and was for many years director of the doctoral Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis He has lectured extensively in many universities in North America, South America, Western Europe, Australia, and South Africa.

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  • Paperback
  • 304 pages
  • Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics
  • Ernesto Laclau
  • Turkish
  • 14 November 2019

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