Populism and Emancipation(s): The Political Legacy of Ernesto Laclau, Symposium Essex University, 12 February 2014

by | 16 Jan 2015


Ernesto Laclau died in Seville on the 13th April 2014. By a sort of historical irony, the Argentinean political theorist missed by only a few weeks the stunning success of a newborn Spanish political party, PODEMOS, which by consciously drawing on his work, became a surprise success at the European elections. Within five months of its foundation, PODEMOS managed to achieve more than a million votes, five seats in the European Parliament. Ongoing efforts at political mobilisation that have helped to produce huge popular support. Recent opinion polls reveal that the party is today fighting to become the number one political force in Spain.

The Spanish case, however, comes after much-noted resonances between Laclau’s theories of populism and Latin American populist experiences, which have spread throughout the continent since the turn of the century. The Argentine has arguably been one of the most visible minds in inspiring and defending such political experiments.

The populist option has thus emerged as a promising road for contemporary emancipatory politics (though clearly not only for emancipatory politics). The publication of “On Populist Reason” in 2005 clearly marked a watershed in the conceptualisation of the phenomenon, but also explicitly put forward a concrete option for the Left. The symposium seeks to shed light on the theoretical premises of populism and on the characteristics of the recent most debated experiments of left-wing populism. The cases of Podemos and Syriza in Spain and Greece will be analysed alongside those of the Ecuadorian Citizen Revolution and the Broad Front of Uruguay.

The timing of the symposium could not be better, as the University celebrates its 50th anniversary, with students keen to take part by honouring Essex’s proud student tradition of using the university space as incubator for radical thought and action. Thirty years have passed since the publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, the founding work that was to orientate Laclau’s subsequent theoretical developments. It is precisely the notion of radical democracy that he advanced, along with Chantal Mouffe, in that text, which has inspired the Essex Radical Conference series, inaugurated last year as an entirely student-led and independent initiative.

The symposium will take place on 12 February 2014 at the University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, CO4 3SQ, Colchester, Essex. The event is free, open to the public, and there is no requirement for registration. Rooms to be announced.

Further info: https://www.facebook.com/events/754887661254935/

Speakers include:

David Howarth (University of Essex)
Jason Glynos (University of Essex)
Yannis Stavrakakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)
Marina Prentoulis (University of East Anglia and member of Syriza)
Íñigo Errejón, Complutense (University of Madrid and Political Secretary of Podemos)
Francisco Panizza (London School of Economics)
Samuele Mazzolini (University of Essex)


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