Populism Without the People

Thea Riofrancos at n+1:

Consistent with Mouffe’s other writings, For a Left Populism draws on the work of two interwar intellectuals: Carl Schmitt and Antonio Gramsci. It might seem strange to place the thought of “the crown jurist of the Third Reich” alongside that of a leader of the Italian Communist Party who was imprisoned by Mussolini’s government, but Mouffe finds in both figures conceptual resources for what she calls an anti-essentialist leftism. From Gramsci, Mouffe takes the concept of hegemony; from Schmitt, the concept of the political. Hegemony names the form of power that cannot be reduced to brute repression alone. Rather, a dominant social group attains hegemony when subaltern groups voluntarily submit to its rule, not under the barrel of a gun but through the force of “common sense” and affective attachments to the existing order. As a corollary, any counter-hegemonic movement from below must contest the prevailing order and the class interests it serves by engaging not only the state but also civil society. Churches, schools, trade unions, sports teams, and all manner of voluntary associations are the battlegrounds of hegemonic struggle.

more here.