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Ernesto Laclau

Ernesto Laclau (Spanish: [laklau]; 6 October 1935 Peronism.[7]


13 April 2014) was an Argentine political theorist. He
is often described as post-Marxist. He is well-known
for his collaborations with his long-term partner, Chantal 2 Work
Moue.
He studied History in Buenos Aires, graduating from the Laclaus early work was inuenced by Althusserian MarxUniversidad Nacional de Buenos Aires in 1964, and re- ism and focused on issues debated within Neo-Marxist
ceived a PhD from the University of Essex in 1977.
circles in the 1970s, such as the role of the state, the dySince 1986 he served as Professor of Political Theory at namics of capitalism, the importance of building popular
the University of Essex, where he founded and directed movements, and the possibility of revolution. Laclaus
for many years the graduate programme in Ideology and most signicant book is Hegemony and Socialist Strategy,
Discourse Analysis, as well as the Centre for Theoretical which he co-authored with Chantal Moue in 1985. The
Studies in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Un- position outlined in this book is usually described as postder his directorship, the Ideology and Discourse Analysis Marxist because it rejects (a) Marxist economic deterprogramme has provided a research framework for the minism and (b) the view that class struggle is the most
development of a distinct type of discourse analysis that important antagonism in society. In their 2001 introducdraws on post-structuralist theory (especially the work of tion to the second edition Laclau and Moue commented
Saussure, Derrida, and Wittgenstein) and psychoanalysis on this label, stating that whilst 'post-Marxist' they were
[8]
(primarily the work of Lacan) to provide innovative anal- also 'post-Marxist': their work, though a departure from
ysis of concrete political phenomena, such as identities, traditional Western Marxism, retained similar concerns
discourses and hegemonies. This theoretical and analyt- and ideas. A key innovation in Hegemony and Socialist
ical orientation is known today as the 'Essex School of Strategy was Laclau and Moues argument that left-wing
movements need to build alliances with a wide variety of
discourse analysis'.[1]
dierent groups if they are to be successful and establish a
Over his career Laclau lectured extensively in many unileft-wing 'hegemony'. In the nal chapter of the book, the
versities in North America, South America, Western Euproject of radical and plural democracy was advocated:
rope, Australia, and South Africa. Most recently he has
a democracy in which subjects accept the importance of
held positions at SUNY Bualo and Northwestern Unithe values of liberty and equality, but ght over what the
versity, both in the US.
terms mean.
Laclau died of a heart attack in Seville in 2014.[2][3]
In Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Laclau and Moue
also oered a unique account of 'discourse'. By drawing
on the work of the later Wittgenstein, they argued that
1 Biography
social entites only become meaningful through discursive
articulation. As such, the meaning of something is never
Laclau studied History at the University of Buenos pre-given but is, instead, constructed through social pracAires[4] and was a member of the PSIN (Socialist Party of tices. Laclau subsequently used this account of discourse
the National Left) until 1969, when the British historian to re-consider the nature of identity, arguing that all politEric Hobsbawm supported his entrance to Oxford.[5] He ical identities are discursive - even if they are experienced
had close links with Jorge Abelardo Ramos, the founder by individuals as 'natural' (even to the point where ones
of the PSIN, although he stated in 2005 that the lat- identity is not recognised as an identity). For example,
ter had evolved in a direction he did not appreciate.[5] though an individual may think that they are just 'born
In the same interview, he claimed that he came from male' this is, for Laclau, not the case: 'maleness is a soa Yrigoyenista family, and that the peronist politician cially constructed category that has no innate meaning.
Arturo Jauretche, a strong opponent of Justo's dictator- In his more recent works Laclau returned to a topic that
ship during the Infamous Decade of the 1930s, was a was prevalent in his earliest writings: populism. In On
close friend of his father.[5]
Populist Reason, Laclau considered the nature of popIn his later years, he had close ties with the Argentine ulism in political discourse, the creation of a popular
Socialist Confederation (Spanish: Confederacin Social- hegemonic bloc such as the people, and the importance
ista Argentina),[6] and in Argentina he is associated with of aect in politics. Building on his earlier work, Laclau
1

argued that the basis of populism lies in the creation of


empty signiers": words and ideas that express a universal idea of justice, and symbolically structure the political
environment. Against those who see populism as a threat
to democracy, Laclau argued that it is an essential component of it.[9]

2.1

Laclaus relationship with Slavoj iek

Laclau is known for his long standing dialogue with Lacanian 'arch-Marxist' Slavoj iek. This dates back to at
least 1989, when Laclau wrote the introduction to ieks
rst book in English (The Sublime Object of Ideology).
iek is widely recognized as responsible for Laclaus increased acceptance of Lacanian ideas, and his essay 'Beyond Discourse Analysis,[10] which was published in Laclaus New Reections on the Revolutions of Our Time
(1990), provided a psychoanalytic critique of Laclaus
work. In 2000 Laclau, iek, and Judith Butler published the trialogue Contingency, Hegemony, Universality, in which each responded to the others works in a
three-essay cycle. Though iek and Laclau noted their
similarities and mutual respect, signicant political and
theoretical dierences emerged between all three interlocutors. Following several acrimonious publications in
the early 2000s Laclau wrote in 2005s On Populist Reason that iek had an impractical and confused approach
to politics, describing him as 'waiting for the martians.[9]
Their disagreement escalated in the pages of Critical Inquiry in 2006 where, in a spate of essays, the two argued
in an increasingly hostile manner about political action,
Marxism and class struggle, Hegel, populism, and the Lacanian Real.[11][12][12] More recently, in a 2014 interview
with David Howarth, Laclau stated that his relationship
with iek had deteriorated due to the latter adopting
a 'frantic ultra-Leftist stance, wrapped in a Leninism of
kindergarten'.[13]

REFERENCES

4 See also
Hegemony discursive theory Laclau-Moue
Essex School of discourse analysis
List of deconstructionists
Richard JF Day
Louis Althusser
Antonio Gramsci
Post-Marxism
Slavoj iek
Saul Newman
Peronism

5 References
[1] See Jules Townshend, 'Discourse theory and political
analysis: a new paradigm from the Essex School?, British
Journal of Politics and International Relations, Vol. 5, No.
1, February 2003, pp. 129142.
[2] "LTIMO MOMENTO: Falleci en Sevilla, el torico y
politlogo argentino, Ernesto Laclau | Radio Rivadavia.
Rivadavia.com.ar. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
[3] Blackburn, Robin. Ernesto Laclau, 1935-2014. VersoBooks.com. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
[4] Cules eran las principales ideas de la obra de Ernesto Laclau - La Nacion, 13 April 2014
[5] Las manos en la masa - Ernesto Laclau contra Negri,
Hardt y Zizek, Pagina/12, June 5, 2005 (Spanish)
[6] Una apuesta por la transformacin - La Vanguardia

Books
Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory (NLB, 1977)
Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (with Chantal
Moue) (Verso, 1985)
New Reections on the Revolution of our Time
(Verso, 1990)
The Making of Political Identities (editor) (Verso,
1994)
Emancipation(s) (Verso, 1996)
Contingency, Hegemony, Universality (with Judith
Butler and Slavoj iek) (Verso, 2000)
On Populist Reason (Verso, 2005)
The Rhetorical Foundations of Society (Verso, 2014)

[7] Ernesto Laclau, el idelogo de la Argentina dividida - Perl, 14 April 2014


[8] Laclau, Erneso (2001) [1985]. Hegemony and Socialist
Strategy. London: Verso.
[9] Laclau, Ernesto (2005). On Populist Reason. London:
Verso. p. 232.
[10] iek, Slavoj (1990). Beyond Discourse Analysis. London: Verso. pp. 249260.
[11] Laclau, Ernesto (2006). Why Constructing A People is
the Main Task of Radical Politics. Critical Inquiry. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
[12] iek, Slavoj (2006). Schlagend, aber nicht Treend!".
Critical Inquiry. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
[13] Laclau, Ernesto (2014). Ernesto Laclau: Post-Marxism,
Populism and Critique. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 271.

Further reading
Anna Marie Smith, Laclau and Moue: The Radical
Democratic Imaginary, London: Routledge, 1998.
David Howarth, Discourse, Milton Keynes: Open
University Press, 2000.
Louise Philips and Marianne Jorgensen, Discourse
Analysis as Theory and Method, London: Sage,
2002.
David Howarth, Aletta Norval and Yannis
Stavrakakis (eds), Discourse Theory and Political Analysis, Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 2002.
Simon Critchley and Oliver Marchart (eds), Laclau:
A Critical Reader, London: Routledge, 2004.
Warren Breckman, Adventures of the Symbolic:
Postmarxism and Radical Democracy, New York:
Columbia University Press, 2013
David Howarth and Jacob Torng (eds) Discourse
Theory in European Politics, Houndmills: Palgrave,
2005.

External links
Centre for Theoretical Studies, University of Essex
Includes Laclau papers on populism and the philosophical roots of discourse theory
Ideology and Discourse Analysis network
Hearts, Minds and Radical Democracy Interview
with Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Moue
Entrevista a Ernesto Laclau sobre el juego de la
poltica
Curriculum Vitae
God Only Knows 1991 article in Marxism Today
Socialist strategy: where next?
Marxism Today

1981 article in

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