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Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Posthegemony is an investigation into the origins, limits, and possibilities for contemporary politics and political analysis. Challenging dominant strains in social theory, Jon Beasley-Murray contends that cultural studies simply replicates the populism that conditions it, and that civil society theory merely nourishes the neoliberalism that it sets out to oppose.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7490-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction: A User’s Guide
    (pp. ix-xxi)

    There is no hegemony and never has been. We live in cynical, posthegemonic times: nobody is very much persuaded by ideologies that once seemed fundamental to securing social order. Everybody knows, for instance, that work is exploitation and that politics is deceit. But we have always lived in posthegemonic times: social order was never in fact secured through ideology. No amount of belief in the dignity of labor or the selflessness of elected representatives could ever have been enough to hold things together. The fact that people no longer give up their consent in the ways in which they may...

  4. Prologue: October 10, 1492
    (pp. 1-12)

    Even empires seek validation. No power can subsist on coercion alone. Hence Antonio Gramsci’s famous distinction between “hegemony” and “direct domination”: hegemony is “the ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant social group,” and direct domination is exercised by “the apparatus of state coercive power which ‘legally’ enforces discipline on those groups which do not ‘consent’ either actively or passively.” Hegemony, in fact, is primary: for Gramsci, power is grounded in consent, and force is employed only secondarily, “in moments of crisis and command when spontaneous...

  5. Part I CRITIQUE

    • 1 Argentina 1972: Cultural Studies and Populism
      (pp. 15-67)

      Hegemony theory has become the ubiquitous common sense of cultural studies. This first chapter is a critique of both by means of an examination of their shared populism. After defining and historicizing the field, I embark on a close reading of the Argentine theorist Ernesto Laclau, whose version of hegemony theory is the most fully developed and influential for cultural studies. Laclau’s definition of hegemony is embedded in a series of reflections on populism, especially in his earliest book,Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory, and in his latest,On Populist Reason. I trace the development of Laclau’s theory, showing...

    • 2 Ayacucho 1982: Civil Society Theory and Neoliberalism
      (pp. 68-122)

      Civil society theory has flourished in the social sciences in recent decades and enjoys great influence with nongovernmental organizations, social-democratic think tanks, and the like. This second chapter is a critique of that theory and the practices it fosters, arguing that it assumes a liberal compact that is too easily overtaken by its neoliberal radicalization. I first discuss the various definitions of civil society and the reasons for the concept’s popularity: it names a sphere of mediation between state and market, private and public, and also brings with it an aura of normativity. Who would not want a more “civil”...


    • 3 Escalón 1989: Deleuze and Affect
      (pp. 125-173)

      The Marxist critic Fredric Jameson famously senses a “waning of affect in postmodern culture.” He argues that “the great modernist thematics of alienation, anomie, solitude and social fragmentation and isolation” have now “vanished away.” Jameson claims that postmodernism offers “not merely a liberation from anxiety but a liberation from every other kind of feeling as well, since there is no longer a self present to do the feeling.” He adds, however, that feelings have not entirely disappeared: it is just that they “are now free-floating and impersonal and tend to be dominated by a peculiar kind of euphoria.”¹ Hence, he...

    • 4 Chile 1992: Bourdieu and Habit
      (pp. 174-225)

      “Tiredness and waiting,” observes Deleuze, “even despair are the attitudes of the body.” This is the more reserved, soberer side of Deleuze’s thought; we are some distance here from nomadic lines of flight. The point is to underscore the Spinozan maxim that “we do not even know what a body can do.” As we have seen, the body opens up a world of immanent resistance and exodus: an “imperceptible passage of attitudes and postures to ‘gest,’ ” a Brechtian shock that is “necessarily social and political” as well as “biovital, metaphysical, and aesthetic.”¹ Yet, “obstinate and stubborn,” weary and worn...

  7. Conclusion: Negri and Multitude
    (pp. 226-283)

    Cultural studies and civil society theory purport to be progressive projects, liberatory alternatives to the dominant social order. Yet cultural studies’ notion of “counterhegemony” only reinforces all the populist assumptions upon which hegemony rests, leaving the state unquestioned. Likewise, for all its talk of “society against the state,” civil society theory also merely entrenches state power by excluding other logics that might unsettle sovereign claims to legitimacy and universality. In short, both of these influential intellectual traditions appeal to and uphold constituted power, instantiated in and exercised through representation. Constituted power is the transcendent power of the sovereign subject, but...

  8. Epilogue: April 13, 2002
    (pp. 284-296)

    The fiction of hegemony is more threadbare than ever. The myth of the social contract is over. In place of coercion or consent, both of which depend upon granting transcendence to the state, posthegemony substitutes affect, habit, and an immanent multitude. Politics is biopolitics: in fact, it always has been, but today more clearly than before neither civil society nor the state are sites of struggle or objects of negotiation. At stake is life itself. On the one hand, increasingly corrupt forces of command and control modulate and intervene directly on the bodies of ordinary men and women. On the...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 297-300)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 301-324)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-352)
  12. Index
    (pp. 353-376)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 377-377)