This epilogue summarizes issues underlying the emergence of post-Marxism in the 1970s and 1980s as Marxism lost its hold on the imagination of the western European intellectual left. The post-Marxism associated with Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Derrida, and Slavoj Žižek attempted to hold onto the possibility of radical action and progressive transformation, while also renouncing Marxism's idea of a privileged social actor, Leninism's insistence on a vanguard party possessing correct theory, and indeed, the basic Marxist-Leninist belief that a theory could ever adequately guide social movements operating within a complex historical reality. Many of the resonances between the eras before and after Marxism's ascendancy may be tied to the prominent role of the symbolic, which has furnished us a red thread by which to track a number of thinkers wrestling with the challenge of reconceiving democratic theory in a context marked by the collapse of really existing socialism and the weakening hold of the Marxist model.
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