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Adventures of the SymbolicPost-marxism and Radical Democracy$
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Warren Breckman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231143943

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231143943.001.0001

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The Post-Marx of the Letter

The Post-Marx of the Letter

Laclau and Mouffe Between Postmodern Melancholy and Post-Marxist Mourning

(p.183) Chapter Five The Post-Marx of the Letter
Adventures of the Symbolic

Warren Breckman

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the movement from the symbolic to a desymbolization that opens the door to political voluntarism by focusing on Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's 1985 book Hegemony and Socialist Theory, where they sought to restore the theoretical dignity of Marxism by articulating a “post-Marxism without apologies.” Laclau and Mouffe's post-Marxism belongs to the intellectual history of France after 1968. In Hegemony and Socialist Theory, they reformulate proletarian dialectics into a theory that explicitly acknowledges the power of the symbolic as well as its debt to Claude Lefort's theory of democracy. Laclau's subsequent explorations and criticisms of deconstructionist philosophy and of Lacanian psychoanalysis are shown to be directed by his and Mouffe's concern to understand how radical politics can find its place in a world whose institution is ultimately symbolic and in which no agent or actor comparable to the dialectical proletariat can—or should—be imagined. An early ally in this search was Slavoj Žižek, who argues that “universality” is complicit with capitalist domination.

Keywords:   symbolic, desymbolization, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Theory, Marxism, post-Marxism, radical politics, Slavoj Žižek, universality

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