Chapter

The Political and the Impossibility of Society: Ernesto Laclau

Oliver Marchart

in Post-Foundational Political Thought

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2007 | ISBN: 9780748624973
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748672066 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624973.003.0007
The Political and the Impossibility of Society: Ernesto Laclau

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The assumption that the political has been systematically ‘absorbed’ by the social places the Laclauian enterprise in the framework of theories that share Carl Schmitt's neutralisation thesis and Hannah Arendt's colonisation thesis. However, no pessimistic or even fatalistic conclusions as to the irreversibility of this absorption or enclosure of the political in the ‘iron cage’ of an increasingly bureaucratised and managed society are drawn. How does Ernesto Laclau proceed about showing the primacy of the political? And how does he define the political and the social in the first place? In Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, after having deconstructed the history of Marxism in a remarkable tour-de-force, Laclau and Chantal Mouffe start again building their theory of politics as hegemony by renouncing the conception of ‘society’ as founding totality of its partial processes. Laclau relates the difference between the social and the political to Edmund Husserl's distinction between sedimentation and reactivation. Laclau's theory has to be located at the antagonistic end of the scale of social post-foundationalism.

Keywords: Ernesto Laclau; post-foundationalism; social; political; politics; Chantal Mouffe; society; Edmund Husserl; sedimentation; reactivation

Chapter.  8161 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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