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Ernesto Laclau

(b. 1935)


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(1935–)

UK-based, Argentinesociologist and political theorist known for his extensive work on the concepts of popular struggle and hegemony. Born in Buenos Aires, he was educated at the University of Buenos Aires and at Oxford. Since 1973, he has taught in the department of government at the University of Essex. He is best known for the work he co-authored with Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (1985). Adopting a post-structuralist stance, the authors reject Marxism for being both essentialist and determinist and argue instead that political thinking needs to grapple with the real uncertainty and undecidability of contemporary existence. In this, and subsequent works, Laclau rejects the notion that class by itself brings about the necessary level of group cohesion to effect political change; similarly, he rejects the notion that group cohesion can only take place along prescribed lines of identification. This is simultaneously both more hopeful than traditional Marxism inasmuch as it is open to the possibility of multiple constituted solidarities and much more pessimistic in that it does not accept that awareness of a common plight will be sufficient to galvanize people into action. In 2000 Laclau contributed to a book co-written with Judith Butler and Slavoj *Žižek called Contingency, Hegemony and Universality, ostensibly with a view to demonstrating their different approaches to a common problematic. Despite the friendly spirit with which that project appears to have been undertaken, it seems to have had the opposite effect, at least insofar as relations between Laclau and Žižek were concerned. For the next few years, in the pages of Critical Inquiry, and in their own books, the two carried out a runningbattle, each accusing the other of misunderstanding Marx, politics, and pretty much everything.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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