The primacy of the political and the trope of the 'people' in Ernesto Laclau's on populist reason: An introduction

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4 Scopus citations


If the proliferation of new social movements thematized in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy was the key conjectural feature on the horizon of radical democratic politics in Euro-America in 1980s, the eruptions of the people in the streets and slums all over the world, and especially in the global south, is hauntingly present in the background of On Populist Reason. With the democratic imaginary now gone global, Laclau's positing of the people as the political subject par excellence and populism as the paradigmatic logic of the political acquires new pertinence. This double privileging is accompanied by a series of shifts in emphasis in the conceptual architecture of Laclau's theory of hegemony. Aside from the further radicalization two pivotal terms in Laclau's social ontology - heterogeneity and contingency - one can observe three other noticeable shifts in emphasis: First, on the plane of discursivity (or in the differential field of the meaningful) the articulatory practices are increasingly characterized in terms of their rhetoricity (i.e. the mode of braiding the rhetorical form with its function); and, furthermore, the tropological characterization of the articulatory practices progressively yields to an analysis of their performative emergence by way of 'naming'. Second, there is a corresponding shift in the analytic interest from the discursive production of the nodal points (such as 'free market' or 'law and order') to the discursive production of empty signifiers (especially, of the 'people'). Third, the conflictual social field is configured not only in terms of antagonisms but also in terms of dislocations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-206
Number of pages22
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • antagonisms
  • contingency
  • heterogeneity
  • naming
  • the institution of the social
  • the political

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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