Posts tagged ‘laclau’

24 May 2011

Journalism and the Political

New book announcement:
Macgilchrist, Felicitas (2011): Journalism and the Political: Discursive tensions in news coverage of Russia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture, Vol. 40) (full price; slightly less expensive)

Summary: Journalism is often thought of as the ‘fourth estate’ of democracy. This book suggests that journalism plays a more radical role in politics, and explores new ways of thinking about news media discourse. It develops an approach to investigating both hegemonic discourse and discursive fissures, inconsistencies and tensions. By analysing international news coverage of post-Soviet Russia, including the Beslan hostage-taking, Gazprom, Litvinenko and human rights issues, it demonstrates the (re)production of the ‘common-sense’ social order in which one particular area of the world is more developed, civilized and democratic than other areas. However, drawing on Laclau, Mouffe and other post-foundational thinkers, it also suggests that journalism is precisely the site where the instability of this global social order becomes visible. The book should be of interest to scholars of discourse analysis, journalism and communication studies, cultural studies and political science, and to anyone interested in ‘positive’ discourse analysis and practical counter-discursive strategies.

The thing is, critical discourse analysis has done a huge amount to draw attention to the role of language, and other forms of semiosis, in shaping what counts as politics, as acceptable, as thinkable and “normal”, i.e in what becomes (however temporarily ad precariously) hegemonic. But, how do we now respond to for instance Latour’s call to re-arm? Using very military metaphors, he worries that the critical spirit, now ensnared in deconstruction, may no longer be aligned to the right target.

To remain in the metaphorical atmosphere of the time, military experts constantly revise their strategic doctrines, their contingency plans, the size, direction, technology of their projectiles, of their smart bombs, of their missiles: I wonder why we, we alone, would be saved from those sort of revisions. It does not seem to me that we have been as quick, in academe, to prepare ourselves for new threats, new dangers, new tasks, new targets. Are we not like those mechanical toys that endlessly continue to do the same gesture when everything else has changed around them? Would it not be rather terrible if we were still training young kids–yes, young recruits, young cadets–for wars that cannot be thought, for fighting enemies long gone, for conquering territories that no longer exist and leaving them ill-equipped in the face of threats we have not anticipated, for which we are so thoroughly disarmed? (Latour, Bruno. 2004. “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern.” Critical Inquiry 30(2): 225-48.)

Journalism and the Political is one attempt to retool. It uses a pinch of deconstruction, a splash of CDA and a dash of (other) post-foundational political/cultural theories to explore the fissures and gaps in what seems to be hegemonic discourse. Perhaps a critical spirit, which forces these fissures into the foreground, can widen the gaps, target new threats, and broaden new possibilities?

29 November 2010

Radikale Demokratie

New (sort of) blog on radical democracy in German, with interesting posts, interviews and literature lists.

Run by Andreas Hetzel and Reinhard Heil, the site points to what looks like a new blooming of (theoretically inspired) radical democracy in Germany. Agonism, Mouffe and Laclau fare well on the site.

Another sign of the new blooming might be that new editions of Althusser are being published. Ideologie und ideologische Staatsapparate (VSA Verlag) is due out in December 2010 (just in time for Christmas!). Für Marx (Suhrkamp) due April 2011.

23 March 2010

Laclau and contingency

Ernesto Laclau talks to the Greek journal Intellectum about the uses of populism, why radical democracy has nothing to do with liberalism, and how lack of political competition benefits the far-Right.

…with thanks to Hanna for the link.

4 March 2010

Discourse Theory vs Critical Realism

The full (edited) text of a debate between Ernesto Laclau and Roy Bhaskar, held at the University of Essex some years ago, is available online.

…tip from Radical Reason & Materialism.

28 October 2009

Ethnographic discourse analysis

On a random google for others also working on “ethnographic discourse analysis”, I came across some interesting links.

Martin Müller’s book, Making great power identities in Russia: An ethnographic discourse analysis of education at a Russian elite university (Zürich:LIT). A university seminar in Vienna (Gabriela B. Christmann).Thomas Scheffer’s Research Report: Statements, Cases, and Criminal Cases. The Ethnographic Discourse Analysis of Legal Discourse Formations in FQS. And a job offer: Assist. Prof of Ethnographic Discourse Analysis at Georgetown (from 1995!).

A detailed review of Steinkuehler, C. (2005). Learning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games: A Critical Approach shows how Steinkuehler explores MMOGs is not only as a discursive practice but also participating in a discourse. She’s primarily interested in learning, and analyses specific interactions and literacy practices. Draws on Geertz and Gee (Big ‘D’ discourses). The reviewer is clear that this is an important book for her research, and writes:

I also get my understanding of game play as situated in a multiplicity of discourses from Steinkuehler and while I have become leery of completely downplaying the digital physicality of virtual worlds I can’t deny the linguistic or at the very least literary nature of the interactions that I observe online. While incomplete her explanation of communities in MMOGs as both communities of discourse and communities of practice is a useful tool for understanding communities in online settings and if her vision of MMOGs as discourses can be somewhat monolithic I’m not prepared to completely abandon it because of that one flaw.

Now I’m wondering what happens if we take a larger definition of ‘discourse’ — akin to Laclau and Mouffe’s work, or the Essex school as they are now being called, or even Gee’s Big ‘D’ disocurses. If we understand discourse as not only language, but also a range of other practices and even physicality, does the separation of ‘community of discourse’ and ‘community of practice’ break down?

9 February 2009

Blogging discourse (2)

Praxis: Happiness Club Blog informs users about coaches using linguistic discourse analysis, together with, e.g., positive psychology or brain research to create dynamic training programmes such as Anastasia Pryanikova’s “The Art and Science of Rewiring Your Brain for a Happier Life.”

Writing from Burma, Abacus tells the tale of someone being bullied by a stupid white man into accepting a favour and feel bad about it. The blog as a whole is harshly honest and very engaging; sure to resonate with many who’ve felt uncomfortable about their white-ness (or western-ness) while living in the majority world.

Fossicking About gets riled about politically correct changes to rhymes which patronise kids and mean they lose out on shared socio-cultural knowledge. (“What do you do with a drunken soldier?” has apparently been changed to “What do you do with a grumpy pirate?”)

Research: In the Asrudian Center Raewyn Connell writes on masculinities and power. In passing, Connell also writes: “A good piece of social research does not generate an answer that we can apply everywhere; but it may raise issues and pose questions that we can ask everywhere.” — Lovely.

Theory: The Bickerstaffe Record posts a long and typo-fulled, but interesting (and polemic) take on why Laclau and Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy was so successful in England of all places. Also links to a pdf of Hall’s seminal piece on Thatcherism.

Politics: Paul Trathern is pleased that Obama “is committed to the restructuring of our modes of discourse”; and is even optimistic enough to think that Obama is aiming for a political terrain in which we’ve gone beyond playing games (in Eric Berne’s Transactional Analytical sense).

Research and theory and politics and praxis: The philippines matrix project offers a critique of contemporary orthodox cultural studies, asking:

In what sense can this still inchoate and contested terrain called “cultural studies,” distinguished for the most part by formalist rhetorical analysis of texts and discourses, be an agent for emancipation, let alone revolutionary social transformation, of the plight of millions?

The critique functions simultaneously as a good introduction to cultural studies, taking in Gramsci, Althusser, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Angela McRobbie, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Dick Hebdige, etc. (Short for an introduction, the text is long for a blog post.). Scrolling right down, we come to the critique:

[Cultural studies, CS] was never radical enough to destroy the logic of capital and the ideology of commodity exchange. Eventually CS has become an Establishment organon, or an academic “ideological state apparatus” preventing even the old style of Kulturkritik to function.

26 January 2009

CfP: Politics and the unconscious

I’ll be watching out for the special issue of Subjectivity with guest editors Jason Glynos (University of Essex, UK) & Yannis Stavrakakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece). Deadline for proposals is 16 March 2009. Email contact below.

The special issue aims to explore the unconscious dimension in politics, whether in the context of political practice or political theory. Of particular interest is the question of how to conceptualise the relationship between the unconscious and political subjectivity.

It is often remarked that in politics much of importance takes place below the radar. ‘Dog whistle politics’, ‘tacit knowledge’, ‘complicity’, and ‘surmise’ are just some of the terms used to capture such silent or unofficial processes which, however, are central to our understanding of official political practices.

The concept of the ‘unconscious’ registers this dimension of politics and there are many ways it can be understood, theorised, and operationalised for purposes of empirical analysis.

The special issue will include an extended interview with Professor Ernesto Laclau, whose aim is to probe the role that Lacanian psychoanalysis plays in his recent work in political theory. But we strongly encourage the submission of papers which explore the unconscious dimension of politics from alternative psychoanalytic perspectives, as well as social-psychological and other perspectives.

Possible themes include:

  • the unconscious and its relation to political subjectivity
  • the role the unconscious and cognate concepts can or should play in political theory and analysisreflection on the historical and/or contemporary use of psychoanalysis in the study of politics
  • the unconscious in critical social and political psychology
  • the role of stereotypes in relation to the unconscious
  • ideological critique
  • hegemony and post-hegemony
  • theories of freedom and emancipation
  • theories of justice and principles of distribution
  • the political economy
  • processes of policy formulation and implementation
  • economic policy, wealth, and happiness
  • utopian thought
  • theories of democracy and post-democracy
  • the politics of consumption
  • general methodological and epistemological issues concerning the use of the unconscious (or cognate terms) to political studies, e.g., what can or should qualify as evidence of the unconscious in social and political life
  • the unconscious at the intersection of media and politics
  • the tenability and significance of drawing a distinction between the individual and collective unconscious
  • different perspectives on the unconscious and their comparative/contrastive significance for understanding political processes
  • the differential implications for political theory and analysis of subscribing to different psychoanalytic frameworks
  • the character and modalities of political discourse
  • discourse and affect in processes of identification
  • fantasy and political subjectivity
  • the political constitution of groups and institutions
  • social and political identification in organizations

We encourage papers which explore any of these or other politically-inflected themes from the point of view of the unconscious or related concepts. Theoretically-informed empirical studies are particularly welcome.

Send expressions of interest with short proposal for possible contributions to by 16 March 2009. Once a proposal is accepted authors will be asked to submit full papers by 20 July 2009. Full papers will then go through the standard peer-review process. Author guidelines can be found at:

The call for papers can also be found at:

…via Rikowski’s weblog

31 December 2008

Totality as a horizon

The most recent issue of World Picture includes an interview with Ernesto Laclau. He says, inter alia:

I don’t think that the notion of totality should be repudiated but, rather, that its theoretical status has to be redefined: totality is not for me a ground but a horizon; it is a type of closure which is not incompatible with the heterogeneity of its internal elements.

Laclau also clarifies once more that where deconstruction is a theory of undecidability, hegemony is a theory of decision (the decisions taken in an undecidable terrain). What interests me most — given my current grappling with the fruitfulness of Lacan for discourse analysis — is his next comment:

In my work I have argued that the logic of the objet a in Lacan’s conception and the hegemonic logic show a profound homology, even if in one case that logic has been established through a psychoanalytic reflection and, in the other, through a politico-theoretical field.

World Picture appears twice annually,
edited by Brian Price, John David Rhodes
and Meghan Sutherland.

16 December 2008

Laclau on Populism

…in Spanish

…thanks to Marco

3 October 2008


Current research thoughts, developing from a discussion in my thesis: the diverse translations of ‘dispositif’ in Foucault’s writings. Take Histoire de la sexualité: La volonté de savoir. In German, Der Wille zum Wissen: Sexualität und Wahrheit I translates dispositif throughout as ‘Dispositiv’. In English, The Will to Knowledge: The history of sexuality: 1 contains the following translations:

  • devices (p. 30), deployment(s) (p. 61, 86, 106), apparatus (p. 84), system (p. 95), construct (p. 105), and on p. 113 both deployment and system.

Dispositif refers to ‘the relations among elements in a ‘decidedly heterogeneous ensemble which is comprised of discourse, institutions, architectural establishments, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral or philanthropic dogmas – in short, the said as much as the unsaid’ (Foucault 1980: 194; check the Foucault Blog for a longer quote).

Laclau and Mouffe differentiate their approach to discourse from Foucault’s by arguing that he retains the distinction between discursive and non-discursive practices (Laclau 1993: 436; Laclau & Mouffe 1985: 107). This term ‘dispositif’, however, is Foucault’s way of combining linguistic aspects of the discursive with what he considers to be non-linguistic aspects. The possibility and/or necessity of distinguishing between discursive and non-discursive is rendered inconsequential.

So, German scholars have one single term to refer to dispositif, whereas English-speaking scholars do not. Has this affected each language community’s Foucauldian research traditions? More soon in a paper publication…