Laclau's new postmodern radicalism: politics, democracy, and the epistemology of certainty

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Abstract

A timeless critique holds that the radical is animated by a deep sense of certainty that leads to the worst excesses. By distinguishing essentialist and non-essentialist forms of radicalism, Ernesto Laclau offers a “coalitional” form of radicalism that, in effect, responds to this critique. Laclau deconstructs classical forms of radicalism, such as Marxism, to show how one can use some of their formal components, such as dichotomic rhetoric and a notion of utopia, without assuming that their particular content (e.g., the figure of the proletarian or the socialist utopia) entails the permanent abolition of oppression. Laclau’s radicalism enables political actors to build their own radical front by politicizing and creating linkages between issues. Laclau thus avoids the epistemic certainty of classical radicalisms. However, in the interest of politically effective radicalism, he deploys a localized form of certainty that has an ambivalent potential for intolerance and violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-278
Number of pages35
JournalCritical Review
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022

Keywords

  • Cold War liberalism
  • Ernesto Laclau
  • Isaiah Berlin
  • Karl Popper
  • Marxism
  • Raymond Aron
  • Essentialism
  • Foundationalism
  • Populism
  • Radicalism

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