Starting from Laclau

At the last LASA (San Francisco) I heard a lot of grumbling about Ernesto Laclau. Part of it surely due to his rather imbecilic fascination with Cristina Kirschner and his current support of unelected dictatorship-for-life. Most of it a general sense that Laclau’s definition of hegemony has run its course. That the “people” in Latin America ain’t what it used to be. That – whether we agree with Jon Beasley-Murray’s magnificent Post-Hegemony or not – that the current era is post-hegemonic, since perhaps hegemony never was.

This seemed an opportune time to revisit Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory, which I’m currently in the midst of. My initial impression upon opening it was that I hadn’t read it since grad school, and therefore almost assuredly understood not a lick of it back then. Suspicion confirmed.

Second impression: It’s not a bad idea – in fact it’s a good one – to define your concepts in as clear a manner as possible. So far I love how Laclau blows a hole through dependency theory – not because the premise (center-periphery) is necessarily false, but it’s singular/monumental definition of “capitalism” is so clumsily applied, at least in Gunder Frank’s hands. A good reminder that capitalisms and modes of production are not fixed or constant across various territories – until the emergence of globalization perhaps.

Ernesto, you were so Orthodox back then (literally, I mean, look at the definition of doxa he provides up front), but dumb you ain’t.  “Who’s Next” just came on, gotta run…

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