On Populist Reason

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Verso, 2005 - Philosophy - 276 pages
What are the political logics explaining the spread of populist experiences in the contemporary world? What is involved in constructing the idea of the people? And how does this construction relate to other forms of political subjectivity -- classes, corporations and other forms of association? Laclau's analysis of populist experiences begins with a critique of current approaches to populism, illustrated by two essential cases: the formation of a popular identity in French Jacobinism, and the dissolution of such an identity in the aftermath of British Chartism. This is followed by a discussion of the classical theories of mass psychology -- by Le Bon, Tarde, Freud, etc. -- and of the role of the lumpenproletariat in Marx's work. Finally Laclau examines a series of historical examples of populism, drawn mainly from American, Canadian, Argentinian and Turkish experiences
 

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Contents

Populism Ambiguities and Paradoxes
3
Le Bon Suggestion and Distorted Representations
21
Suggestion Imitation Identification
31
CONSTRUCTING THE PEOPLE
65
The People and the Discursive Production of Emptiness
67
Floating Signifiers and Social Heterogeneity
129
Populism Representation and Democracy
157
POPULIST VARIATIONS
173
The Saga of Populism
175
Obstacles and Limits to the Construction of the People
200
Concluding Remarks
223
Notes
251
Index
269
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About the author (2005)

Ernesto Laclau is Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Government, University of Essex, and Distinguished Professor for Humanities and Rhetorical Studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of, amongst other works, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (with Chantal Mouffe), New Reflections of the Revolution of Our Time, The Populist Reason, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality (with Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek), and Emancipation(s).

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