This essay poses some questions for Ernesto Laclau's conception of rhetoric with respect to the theory of hegemony and the concept of 'the people'. Through reference to Lacanian psychoanalysis - in particular the category of the Imaginary - I note the tendency of rhetoric to be 'ontologized' in Laclau's most recent work by the now-familiar claims of the 'rhetoricity of the social' and the attendant constitution of the people. The psychoanalytic Imaginary, I argue, offers a theoretical propaedeutic for rhetoric. It provides an opportunity to consider rhetoric not merely as the quasi-ontological (i.e. 'failed') constitution of political subjects, but rather as a specific and crucial moment of affective ambivalence between language (langue) and speech (parole). Consideration of the Imaginary is important not, I claim, because of the specific Lacanian language; rather, it shows how rhetoric's productive power may lie in the ambivalences of speech and language, rather than under the auspices of rhetoric as a quasi-ontology.
- the people
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Social Sciences(all)