Political Theory 44 (6):797-820 (2016)

Benjamin McKean
Ohio State University
Does the recent success of Podemos and Syriza herald a new era of inclusive, egalitarian left populism? Because leaders of both parties are former students of Ernesto Laclau and cite his account of populism as guiding their political practice, this essay considers whether his theory supports hope for a new kind of populism. For Laclau, the essence of populism is an “empty signifier” that provides a means by which anyone can identify with the people as a whole. However, the concept of the empty signifier is not as neutral as he assumes. As I show by analyzing the role of race in his theory, some subjects are constituted in a way that prevents their unmediated identification with the people. Consequently, Laclau’s view should be read as symptomatic of the problems with populist logic if its adherents are to avoid reproducing its exclusions and practice a more inclusive politics.
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DOI 10.1177/0090591716647771
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Populism, Cosmopolitanism, or Democratic Realism?Christopher Meckstroth - 2020 - Global Justice : Theory Practice Rhetoric 12 (2):94-116.
Populism in America: Christopher Lasch, Bell Hooks, and the Persistence of Democratic Possibility.Will Barndt - 2019 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 31 (3-4):278-299.
The Liberal Populism of Shmuel Nili’s The People’s Duty.James Lindley Wilson - 2021 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 24 (4):616-621.

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