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The concept of alienation. ,n mov1ng from Marx1st th1nk,ng 1n10 culture. has lost much of its

1 ntegmy and force. For example. young women have come to me to say they do not w¥C

any children because ch 1 1dren represent self·alienat,on

aga 1 nst your w 1 11. that const 1 tutes alienation. But 11 1s d1fferentlf you want the ch1ld.

1 s determ 1 ned not by the condmon of women but by the act1on of w1ll and des~re

The protect described here beg1ns with the quest10n of how people hve the" everyday It leaves unanswered those cons1derat1ons that m1ght result from look1ng espec1ally at whose 1 ncomes are well below the soc1al average How do the Northeastern peasants of Upper Volta. the 1nhabnants of the Mexican campam•entos surv1ve? note: Th 1 s is an untranslatable play on words The verb used. sov-v.vre. does not

exist 1 n French. The verb for survive

I suggest that 1f you have_ a chid

is survivre and Lefebvre IS play1ng w1th t~e prefixes

(over) and sov-(under. as in underdevelopment) ] Do they manage1 But how Is there not parallel and underground economy be1ng constructed 1n relation to ultramodern 1nd_usuyl

1 s not only a matter of turn 1 ng one's attenuon to the way 1n wh1ch hundreds of m 1lhons

people manage 10 surviVe. but to know 1f th1s modern society-from the capnahst not 1 n the process of break1ng up. A theoretical. pract1cal. and poht1cal problem. one does not accept that the growth of produc!lon as well as of ,nformat,on 1s

conserve the un1ty of soc1ety










Chantal M ouffe

Hegemony and New Political Subjects:

ard a New Concept of Democracy

Translated by Stanley Gray

It is incomprehensible that equality should not ultimately penetrate the political world as it has elsewhere. That men should be eter- nally unequal among themselves in one sin- gle respect and equal in others is inconceiva- ble; they will therefore one day attain equality in all respects.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy in America

Despite Tocqueville's remarkable insight into the po- implications of the "democratic revolution," it is unlikely that he have imagined its leading, today, to our questioning the totality of

relationships. He believed, in fact, as his reflections on women's equal- , that the ineluctable drive toward equality must take into account real differences grounded in nature. It is precisely the permanent based on such a conception of natural essences that is contested an important segment of the feminist movement. It is not merely

T oe-

foresaw; the revolution has taken forms that no one could have ,lnticii>ate~d because it attacks forms of inequality that did not previously Qearly, ecological, antinuclear, and antibureaucratic struggles, along 'all the other commonly labeled "new social movements"-! would to call them "new democratic struggles"-should be understood as , to new types of oppression emerging in advanced capitalist so- is the thesis my essay will develop, and I shall try to answer questions: (I) What kind of antagonism do the new social :mc1veJne:ots express? (2) What is their link with the development of capi- (3) How should they be positioned in a socialist strategy? (4) What the implications of these struggles for our conception of democracy?

democratic revolution has proven to be mo re radical than

aaor.nt,~at Positions

I. Within every society, each soc ial agent is inscribed multiplicity of social relations-not only social relations of production


but also the social relations, among others, of sex, race, nationality, and vicinity. All these social relations determine positionalities or subject po-

sitions, and every social agent is therefore the locus of many subject positions

and cannot be reduced to only one. T hus, someone insc ribed in th e relations

of production as a worker is also a man or a woman, white or black, Catholic or Protestant, French or German, and so on. A person's subjectivity is not constructed only on the basis of his or her position in the relatio ns of production. Furthermore, each social position, each subject position, is itself the locus of multiple possible constructions, according to the different dis· courses that can construct that position. Thus, the subjectivity of a given social agent is always precariously and provisionally fixed or, to use the Lacanian term, sutured at the intersection of various discourses. I am consequently opposed to the class reductio nism of classical Marxism, in which all social subjects are necessarily class subjects (each social class having its own ideological paradigm, and every antagonism ultimately reducible to a class antagonism ). I affirm, instead, the existence in each individual of multiple subject positions corresponding both to the different social relations in which the individual is inserted and to the dis- courses that constitute these relations. There is no reason to privilege, a priori, a "class" position as the origin of the articulation of subjectivity. Furthermore, it is incorrect to attribute necessary paradigmatic forms to this class position. Consequently, a critique of the notion of "fundamental interests" is required, because this notion entails fixing necessary political ' and ideological forms within determined positions in the production pro- cess. But interests never exist prior to the discourses in which they are

articulated and constituted; the y cannot be the expression of alread y existi ng positions on the economic level.

2. I am opposed to the economic view o f social e vo luti on as

co nceive s th e unity of

a social formation as the result of"necessary effects" produced in ideological and political superstructures by the economic infrastructures. The distinc- tion between infra- and superstructure needs to be questioned beca use it implies a conception of economy as a world of objects and relations that exist prior to any ideological and political conditions of existence. This view assumes that the economy is able to function on its own and follow its own

logic, a logic absolutely independent of the relations it would allegedly de- termine. Instead, I shall defend a conception of society as a complex en- semble of heterogeneous social relations possessing their own dynamism.

Not all such relations are reducible to social relations of pr o du ction or to their ideological and political conditions of reproduction. The unity of a social formation is the product of political articulations, which are, in turn, the result of the social practices that produce a hegemonic formation.

"hegemonic formation" I mean an ensemble of relati vely

stable social forms, the materialization of a social articulation in which different social relations react reciprocally either to provide each other with mutual conditions of existence, or at least to neutralize th e poten tiall y de- structive effects of certain social relations on the reproduction of other such relations. A hegemonic formation is always centered around certain types of social relations. In capitalism, these are the relations of production, but this fact should not be explained as an effect of structure; it is , rather, that the centrality of production relations has been conferred by a hegemonic

governed by a single economic logic, the view that

3. By


Chantal Mouffe

policy. However, hegemon y is never established conclusively. A constan t struggle must create the conditions necessary to validate capi tal and its

accumulation. This implies a set of practices that are not merely economic

development of capitalism is

subject to an incessant political struggle, periodically modifying those social forms through which social relations of production are assured their cen- trality. In the history of capi talism we can see the rhythm of successive

hegem onic fo rm ations. 4. All socia l re lations can become the loc us of antagonism in so far

as they are constructed as relations of subordination.

ofsubordi nation can become the origin of conflict and struggle. T here exists, therefore, in society a multiplicity of potential antagonisms, and class an- tagonism is only one amo ng many. It is not possible to reduce all those forms of subordination and stru ggle to the expression of a single logic located in the economy. Nor can this reduction be avoided by positing a complex mediation between social antagonisms and the econo my. T here are multiple forms of power in society that cannot be reduced to o r deduced from one origin or source.

Man y different forms

but political

and cu lt ural as well. T h us, the

New Antagonisms and Hegemonic Formations

M y thesis is that the new social movements express antagonis m s

that have emerged in response to the hegem onic formation that was fully

in cris is ti me ;

these hegemoni c forms were evolving, were being put into place since the

beginning of this century. Thus, we also had social movements before the Second World War, but t hey really fully deve loped only after the war in response to a new social hegemonic formation. T he antagonisms that emerged after the war, however, have not derived from the impositi on of forms of subordination that did not exist before. For instance, the struggles against racism and sexism resist forms of domination that existed not only before the new hegemonic fo rm ation but also before ca pitalism. We can see the emergence of those antagonisms in the context of the dissolution of all the socia l relations based on hierarchy, and that, of course, is li nk ed to the developmen t of capitalism, which de- stroys all those social relations and repla ces the m with commodity re latio ns. So, it is with the development of ca pi talism tha t those forms of subordi- nation can emerge as an tagon isms. The rela tions may have exis ted previ- ously, but they could not emerge as antagonisms before capitalism. Thus, we must be concerned with the structural transformations that have pro- vided some of the objective conditions for the emergence of these new antagonisms. But you cannot automatically derive antagonism and struggle from the exis tence of t hese object ive conditions-they are necessary but not

sufficient- unless you

ordination. Obviously

to ask under what conditions those relations of subordination could give

birth to antagonisms, and what other condi tions are needed for the emer- gence of struggles against these subordinations.

installed in Western co untries

after World War II , a formation

today. I say fully installed becau se the

p rocess did no t begin at that

assume people will necessarily struggle agai nst sub- I am against a ny such essen tialist postulate. We need

is the hegemo nic formation installed after the Second World fact, prov ides these conditions . We ma y characterize this for-

ma tio n as arti culat ing: (a) a certain type of labor process based on the

War tha t, in



semiautomatic assembly line; (b) a certain type of state (the Keynesian

interventionist state); and

"mediating culture." The investiture of such a hegemonic formation in- volved a complex process, articulating a set of transformations, each of which derived from a different logic. It is impossible to derive any one of these from another in some automatic fashion, as in an economistic logic. In fact, the transformations of the labor process that led to Taylorization

and finally to Fordism were governed by the need to destroy the autonomy that workers continued to exercise in the labor process and to end worker

resistance to the valorization of capital. But the Fordist semiautomatic as- sembly line made possible a mass production for which , given the low salary level, there were insufficient outlets. Thus, the working class's mode of life had to change significantly in order to create the conditions necessary for accumulation to regain its ascendancy. However, the fact that certain con- ditions were necessary for the accumulation and reproduction of capitalist social relations to function in no way guaranteed that these conditions would come about. The solution was to use worker struggles, which were multi- plying in response to the intensification of labor, to establish a connection between increased productivity and increased wages. But this required a state intervention with a double purpose: it was just as urgent to counter the capitalist's inclination to lower wages as it was to set up a political framework in which worker's demands could be 111ade compatible with the reproduction of capitalism. This provides significant evidence that this new hegemonic formation resulted from a political intervention. These changes in the labor process can also be defined as a trans- . formation of an extensive regime of accumulation into an intensive regime of accumulation. The latter is characterized by the expansion of capitalist relations of production to the whole set of social activities, which are thereby subordinated to the logic of production for profit. A new mode of con- sumption has been created that expresses the domination of commodity relations over noncommodity relations. As a consequence, a profound trans- formation of the existing way of life has taken place. Western society has been transformed into a big marketplace where all the products of h uman labor have become commodities, where more and more n eeds must go through the market to be satisfied. Such a "commodifica tion of social life"

has destroyed a series

commodity relations. This is what we know as the consumer society. Today, it is not only through the sale of their labor power that individuals are submitted to the domination of capital but also through

their participation in many other social relations. So many spheres of social life are now penetrated by capitalist relations that it is almost impossible


new cu ltural forms that can be described as

of previous social relations and re placed them with

to escape them. Culture, leisure, dea th ,

profit for capital. The destruction of the environment, the transformation

of people into mere consumers-these are the results of that subordination

of social life to the accumulation of capital. T hose new forms of domination,

sex, e verything is now a fie ld of

Chantal Mouffe of all forms of social conflict smce the middle of the sixties. My tbeSlS IS that many of the new social movements are expressions of resist-

ances against that com modification of social life and the new subordination it has created.

forms of

of the p rob lem; there is a seco nd remember that we have defined the

new hegemonic fo rmati on not only in terms of Fordism but also in terms of the Keynesian welfare state. The new hegemonic formation has been characterized by growing state intervention in all aspects of social life, which is a ke y characteristic. of the Keynesian state . The intervention of the state

has led to a phenomenon of bureaucratization, which is also at the origin of new forms of sub?rdination and resistance. It must be said that in many

commod1fi cauon and bu reauc rat iza tio n are articulated together, as

when the state ac ts 1n favor of capital. Thus, w hile it might be difficult to distinguish between them, I think it is extremely importa nt to do so and ·· to analyze the m as differe nt systems of domination . There may be cases in which the state acts aga inst the interests of capital to produce what Claus

same time, such intervent ions,

because of their bureaucratic character, may produce new forms of subor- dination. This is the case, for example, when the sta te provides services in the fields of health, transportation, housing, and education.

A third aspect of the pro b lem is that some new types of strugg le must be seen as res1stances to the growing un i formity of socia l life a uni- formity that is the res ult of the kind of mass culture imposed by the,media. "_This_imposition of a ho':logen ized way of life, of a uniform cultural pattern, IS bemg challenged by different groups that reaffirm t hei r right to their dif- feren~,their. sp~ci~city,be it t hrough the exaltation of their regional identity or theu specJficJty m the realm of fashion, music, or language. The profound changes brought about by this construction of a

new hegemonic formati on gave rise to the

resistances expressed in the new

social movements. However, as I have said, one should not blame new ~ormsof inequality for all t he antagonisms that eme rged in t he sixties. Some,


that is

o nl y one

aspec t

aspect tha t is ext re mely importan t. You


Offe has called "decommodification." At the

like the women's m ovement, concerned long-standing types of oppression that had not yet become antagonistic because they were located in a hier- archical society accepting certa in inequalities as "natural." Whether antagonism is produced by the co mmodification of all

' soci~ needs, or by the interve nti o n of sta te bureaucracy, or by cultura l leveling and the destruction of tradit ional values (w hether or not the latter are themselves oppressive)-what a ll these antagonisms have in com mon

is that the problem is not caused by the ind ivi dual's defined position in the pr?<fuction system ; they are, therefore, not "class antagonis ms." Obvio usl y this does not mean that class antagonism has bee n eliminated. In fact,

converted into "services"

provided by capital ism , the number of individuals subordinated to capitalist production relations increases. If you take the term "proletarian" in its strict

insofar as more a nd more areas of social life are

of course,

have bee n studied by m any a u tho rs, but

there has bee n a tendency,

sense, as a worker who sells his or her labor, it is quite legitimate to speak


at the beginning of th e sixties-you will remember Marcuse's One

of a process of proletarianization. The fact that there are an Increasing

Dimensional Man-to believe that the power of capital was so overwhelm- ing that no struggle, no resistan ce, cou ld take place. Yet a few years later it became clear that those new forms of domination would not go unchal- lenged; they have given rise to many n ew antagonisms, whic h explains the

number of individuals who may suffer capitalist dom ination as a class does not signify a new form of subordination but rather the extension of an already existing one. What is new is the spread o f social co nflict to o ther areas and the politicization of all these social relations . When we recognize



that we are dealing with resistances to forms of opp ression developed by the postwar hegemonic formation, we begin to understand the Importance of these struggles for a socialist program. It is wrong, then, to affirm, as some do, that these moveme_n~s emerged because of the crisis of the welfare state. No doubt that c':s1s exacerbated antagonisms, but it did not cause them; they are the expressiOn of a triumphant hegemonic formation. It is, on the contra:Y, reas_onabl e to suppose that the crisis was in part provoked by the growmg resistance to the domination of society by capital and the state. Neoconservative theo- reticians are, therefore, not wrong to insist on the problem of the ung?v· emability of Western countries, a problem they would solve by slowmg down what they call the "democratic assault." To propose the cns1s as the origin of the new social movements is, in addition, politically dangerous:

it leads to thinking of them as irrational manifestations, as phenomena of social pathology. Thus, it obscures the important lessons these struggles provide for a reformulation of socialism.

New Antagonisms and Democratic Struggle




I have thus far limited my analysis to the transformatiOnS that · have taken place in Western societies after World Wa: II and to the resulti~g creation of new forms of subordination and inequality, wh1ch produced l.ll tum the new social movements. But there is an entirely different aspect of

the question that must now be developed. Pointing to the_ existence of in· equalities is not sufficient to explain why they produce soc1al unrest. I_f yo_u reject, as I obviously do, the assumption that the ~ssence of humankind IS to struggle for equality and democra cy, then there IS an Important probl~rn to resolve. One must determine what conditions are necessary for specific

forms of subordination to produce struggles that seek their

I have said the subordination of women is a very old phenomenon, wh1ch became th~ target of feminist struggles only when the social model based on hierarchy had collapsed. It is here that my opening re_ference to de Toe- . queville is pertinent, for he was the first to grasp the 1mport~nce of the democratic revolution on the symbolic level. As long as equality has not yet acquired (with the democratic revolution) _its place of central s~gnificance in the social imagination of Western societies, struggles for th1s equal~ty cannot exist. As soon as the principle of equality is admitted in one doma1n, however the eventual questioning of all possible forms of inequality is an ineluctable consequence. Once begun, the democratic revol~tion has had, necessarily, to undermine all forms of power and dommat10n, whatever


. I would like to elaborate on the relat10nsh1p between antagomsrn and struggle and to begin with the following thesis:. An antag?nism ~ emerge when a collective subject-of course, here I am mterested m political

they might be.


antagonism at the level of the collective subject-th~thas ~ee~ c_onstructed in a specific way, to certain existing discourses, finds Its subJect:vJty negate_d by other discourses or practices. That ne~ation can h~ppen m two bas1c ways. First, subjects constructed on the bas1s of ce0am nghts can find_ them·

selves in a discourses.

which can be the basis for an antagonism. I am not saymg that th1s nee·

position in which those rights are den_1ed. by some pra_cuce~ or At that point there is a negation of subJeCtiVItY. or Jdentlfi~at!On,

essarily leads to an antagonism; it is a necessary but not sufficient condition.


Chantal Mouffe

The second form in which antagonism emerges corresponds to that ex- pressed by feminism and the black movement. It is a situation in which subjects constructed in subordination by a set of discourses are, at the same time, interpellated as equal by other discourses. Here we have a co ntradic- tory interpellation. Like the first form, it is a negation of a particular subject position, but, unlike the first, it is the subjectivity-in -subordination that is negated, which opens the possibility for its deconstruction and challenging. For example, consider the case of the suffragist movement, or, more generally, the question of why it is that, although women's subordi- nation has existed for so long, only at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century did subordination give rise to a femi nist movement. That has lead so me Marxi st feminists to say that there was no real women's subordination before; women's subordination is a consequence of capitalism and that is why feminism emerged under capi- talism. I think this is wrong. Imagine the way women were constructed, as women, in the Middle Ages. All the possible discourses-the church, the family-construc ted women as subordinate subjects. There was absolutely no possibility, no play, in those subject positions for women to call that subordination into question. But with the democratic revolutions of the nineteenth century the assertion that "all men are equal" appears for the first time. Obviously "men" is ambiguous because it refers to both men and women, so women found themselves contradictorily interpellated. As citi- zens women are equal, or at leas t interpellated as equal, but that equality

that Mary Wo ll -

stonecraft, one of the important English feminists, was living with William Godwin, who was an important radical; this demonstrates the influence of radicalism on the emergence of the suffragist movement.) So that is what I understand by contradictory interpellation-the emergence of a section of equality at a point of new subjectivity, which contradicts the subordination in all other subject positions. That is what allows wo men to extend the democratic revolution, to question all their subordinate subject positions. The same analysis could be given for the emergence of the black libera tion

movemen t.

is negated by their being women . (It is no coincidence

I shou ld emphasize here the im portance of actually existing dis-

course in the emergence and co nstruction of antagonisms. Antagonisms are alwa ys discursively constructed; the forms they tak e depend on existing discourses and their hegemonic role at a given moment. Thus, different positions in sexual relations do not necessarily construct the concept of woman or femininity in different ways. It depends on the way the antag- onism is constructed, and the enemy is defined by the existing discourses . We must also take into account the role of the democratic discourse that became predominant in the Western world wi th the "democratic revolu- tion." I refer to the transformation, at the level of the symbolic, that de- constructed the theological-political-cosmological vision of the Middle Ages, a vision in which people were born into a specific place in a structured and hierarchical society for which the idea of equality did not exist. People struggle for equality not because of some ontological pos- tulate but because they have been constructed as subjects in a democratic tradition that puts those values at the center of social life. We can see the widening of social conflict as the extension of the democratic revolution into more and more spheres of social life, into more social relations. All


positions that have been constructed as relations of domination/subordi- nation will be deconstructed because of the subversive character of dem- ocratic discourse. Democratic discourse extends its field of influence from a starting point, the equality of citizens in a political democracy, to socialism, which extends equality to the level of the economy and then into other social relations, such as sexual, racial, generational, and regional. Demo- cratic discourse questions all forms of inequality and subordination. That is why I propose to call those new social movements "new democratic struggles," because they are extensions of the democratic revolution to new forms of subordination. Democracy is our most subversive idea because it interrupts all existing discourses and practices of subordination. Now I want to make a distinction between democratic antago- nism and democratic struggle. Democratic antagonisms do not necessarily · lead to democratic struggles. Democratic antagonism refers to resistance to subordination and inequality; democratic struggle is directed toward a wide democratization of social life. I am hinting here at the possibility that dem- ocratic antagonism can be articulated into different kinds of discourse, even into right-wing discourse, because antagonisms are polysemic. There is no one paradigmatic form in which resistance against domination is expressed. Its articulation depends on the discourses and relations of forces in the present struggle for hegemony. Stuart Hall's analysis of Thatcherism enables us to understand the way popular consciousness can be articulated to the Right. Indeed, any democratic antagonism can be articulated in many different ways. Consider the case of unemployment. A worker who loses his or her job is in a situ-

ation- the first one described above-in which, having been defined on the

basis of the right to have a job, he or she now finds that right denied. This can be the locus of an antagonism, although there are ways of reacting to unemployment that do not lead to any kind of struggle. The worker can commit suicide, drink enormously, or batter his or her spouse; there are many ways people react against that negation of their subjectivity. But con- · sider now the more political forms that reaction can take. There is no reason to believe the unemployed person is going to construct an antagonism in which Thatcherism or capitalism is the enemy. In England, for example, the discourse of Thatcherism says, "You have lost your job because women are taking men's jobs." It constructs an antagonism in which feminism is the enemy. Or it can say, "You have lost your job because all those im- migrants are taking the jobs of good English workers." Or it can say, "You have lost your job because the trade unions maintain such high wages that , there are not enough jobs for the working class." In all these cases, dem- ocratic antagonism is articulated to the Right rather than giving birth to democratic struggle. Only if the struggle of the unemployed is articulated with the struggle of blacks, of women, of all the oppressed, can we speak of the creation of a democratic struggle. As I have said, the ground for new struggles · has been the production of new inequalities attributable to the postwar hegemonic formation. That the objective of these struggles is autonomy and not power has often been remarked. It would, in fact, be wrong to oppose radically the struggles of workers to the struggles of the new social move- ments; both are efforts to obtain new rights or to defend endangered ones. Their common element is thus a fundamental one.


Chantal Mouffe

Once we have abandoned the idea of a paradigmatic form, which the worker's struggles would be obliged to express, we cannot affirm that the essential aim of these struggles is the conquest of political power. What is needed is an examination of the different forms that democratic struggles for equality may take, according to the type of adversary they oppose and the strategy they imply. In the case of resistances that seek to defend existing rights against growing state intervention, it is obvious that the matter of autonomy will be more important than for those resistan ces that seek to obtain state action in order to redress inequalities originating in civil society. This does not change the fact that they are of the same nature by virtue of their common aim: the reduction of inequalities and of various forms of subordination. That the vast extension of social conflict we arc living through is the work of the democratic revolution is better understood by the New Right than by the Left. This is why the Right strives to halt the progress of equality. Starting from different viewpoints, both neoliberal theoreticians of the market economy and those who are called, in the United States, "neoconservatives" are variously seeking to transform dom inant ideological parameters so as to reduce the central role played in these by the idea of democracy, or else to redefine democra cy in a restrictive wa y to reduce its subversive power. For neoliberals like Hayek, the idea of demo crac y is subord i nated to the idea of individual liberty, so that a defense of economic liberty and private property replaces a defense of equality as the privileged value in a liberal society. Naturally, Hayek does not attack democratic values frontally, but he does make them into an arm for the defense of individual liberty. It is clear that, in his thinking, should a conflict arise between the two , democracy should be sacrificed. Another way to stop the democratic revolution is offered by the neoconservatives, whose objective is to redefine the notion of democracy itself so that it no longer centrally implies the pursuit of equality and the importance of political participation. Democracy is thus emptied of all of its substance, on the pretext that it is being defended against its excesses, which have led it to the edge of the egalitarian abyss. To this purpose, Brzezinski, when he was director of the Trilateral Commission, proposed a plan to "increasingly separate the political systems from society and to begin to conceive of the two as separate entities." The idea was to remove as many decisions as possible from political control and to give their responsibility exclusively to experts. Such a measure seeks to depoliticize the most fundamental decisions, not only in the economic but also in the social and political spheres, in order to achieve, in the words of Huntington, "a greater degree of moderation in democracy." The attempt is to transform the predominant shared meanings in contemporary democratic liberal societies in order to rearticulate them in a conservative direction, justifying inequality. If it succeeds, if the New Right's project manages to prevail, a great step backward will have been taken in the movement of the democratic revolution. We shall witness the establishment of a dualistic society, deeply divided between a sector of the privileged, those in a strong position to defend their rights, and a sector of all those who are excluded from the dominant system, whose demands cannot be recognized as legitimate because they will be inadmissible by definition.


It is extremely important to recognize that, in their antiegalitarian crusade, the various formations of the New Right are trying to take advan- tage of the new antagonisms born of commodification, bureaucratization, and the uniformization of society. Margaret Thatcher's success in Great Britain and Ronald Reagan's in the United States are unmistakable signs:

the populist Right has been able to articulate a whole set of resistances countering the increase in state intervention and the destruction of tradi- tional values and to express them in the language of neoliberalism. It is thus possible for the Right to exploit struggles that express resistance to the new forms of subordination stemming from the hegemonic formation of the Keynesian welfare state. This is why it is both dangerous and mistaken to see a "privileged revolutionary subject" constituted in the new social movements, a subject who would take the place formerly occupied by the now fallen worker class. I think this is the current thinking represented by Alain Tourraine in France and by some of the people linked with the peace movement in Germany. They tend to see new social movements in a much too simplistic way. Like those of the workers, these struggles are not necessarily socialist or even progressive. Their articulation depends on discourses existing at a given moment and on the type of subject the resistances construct. They can, therefore, be as easily assimilated by the discourses of the anti-status quo Right as by those of the Left, or be simply absorbed into the dominant system, which thereby neutralizes them or even utilizes them for its own modernization. It is, in fact, evident that we must give up the whole problematic of the privileged revolutionary subject, which, thanks to this or that char- acteristic, granted a priori by virtue of its position in social relations, was presumed to have some universal status and the historical mission of lib- erating society. On the contrary, if every antagonism is necessarily specific and limited, and there is no single source for all social antagonisms, then the transition to socialism will come about only through political construe. tion articulating all the struggles against different forms of inequality. If, in certain cases, a particular group plays a central role in this transition, it is for reasons that have to do with its political capacity to effect this articulation in specific historical conditions, not for a priori ontological reasons. We must move beyond the sterile dichotomy opposing the working class to the social movements, a dichotomy that cannot in any case correspond to so- ciological separation, since the workers cannot be reduced to their class position and are inserted into other types of social relations that form other subject positions. We must recognize that the development of capitalism and of increasing state intervention has enlarged the scope of the political struggle and extended the effect of the democratic revolution to the whole of social relations. This opens the possibility of a war for position at all levels of society, which may, therefore, open up the way for a radical trans- formation.

The New Antagonisms and Socialism

This war for position is already underway, and it has hitherto been waged more effectively by the Right than by the Left. Yet the success of the New Right's current offensive is not definitive. Everything depends on the Left's ability to set up a true hegemonic counteroffensive to integrate current struggles into an overall socialist transformation. It must create what


Chantal Mouffe

Gramsci called an "expansive hegemony," a chain of equivalences between all the democratic demands to produce the collective will of all those people struggling against subordination. It must create an "organic ideology" that articulates all those movements together. Clearly, this project cannot limit itself to questioning the structural rela tions of capitalist production. It must also question the mode of development of those forces endemic to the rationale of capitalist production. Capitalism as a way of life is, in fact, responsible for the numerous forms of subordination and inequality at-

tacked by new social movements. The traditional socialist model, insofar as it accepts an assembly- line productivity of the Fordist type, cannot provide an alternative within the current social crisis and must be profoundly modified. We need an alternative to the logic that promotes the maximum production of material goods and the consequent incessant creation of new material needs, leading in turn to the progressive destruction of natural resources and the environ- ment. A socialist program that does not include the ecological and anti- nuclear movements cannot hope to solve current problems. The same ob- jection applies to a socialism tolerant of the disproportionate role given to the state. State intervention has, in fact, been proposed as a remedy for the capitalist anarchy. But with the triumph of the Keynesian state, the bourgeoisie has in large part realized this objective. Yet it is just this increase in state intervention that has given rise to the new struggles against the bureaucratization of social life. A program wishing to utilize this potential cannot, therefore, propose increased state intervention but must encourage increased self-determination and self-government for both individuals and citizens. This does not mean accepting the arguments of the New Right, or falling back into the trap of renewed privatization. The state ought to have charge of key sectors of the economy, including control of welfare services. But all these domains should be organized and controlled by workers and consumers rather than the bureaucratic apparatus. Otherwise, the potential of this antistate resistance will simpl y be used by the Right for its own ends. As for the women's movement, it is apparent that it needs an even more thoroughgoing transformation. Such a transformation is not uto - pian. We are beginning to see how a society in which the development of science and technology is directed toward the liberation of the individual rather than toward his or her servitude could also bring about a true equality ofthe sexes. The consequences of automation-the reduction of the workday and the change in the very notion of work that implies-make possible a far-reaching transformation of everyday life and of the sexual division of labor that plays such an important role in women's subordination. But for this to occur, the Left would have to abandon its conservative attitude toward technological development and make an effort to bring these im-

. We hear, all too often, as a reaction to the apologists of postin-

dustrial society, that we are still in a capitalist society and that nothing has changed. Though it is quite true that capitalism still prevails, man y things have changed since Marx. We are, today, in the midst of an important restructuring. Whether the outcome will strengthen capitalism or move us

ahead in the constru ction

of a more democratic society depends on the

ability of existing forces to articulate the struggles taking place for the cre-

ation of a new hegemonic formation .

portant changes under its control.



What is specific to the present situation is the proliferation of· democratic struggles. The struggle for equality is no longer limited to the political and economic arenas. Many new rights are being defined and de- manded: those of women, of homosexuals, of various regional and ethnic minorities . All inequalities existing in our society are now at issue. To understand this profound transformation of the political field we must re- think and reformulate the notion of democracy itself for the view we have inherited does not enab l e us to grasp the amplitude ~f the democratic rev- olution . To this end, it is not enough to improve upon the liberal parl ia- mentary conception of democracy by creating a number of basic democratic forms through which citizens could participate in the management of public affairs, or workers in the management of industries. In addition to these traditional social subjects we must recognize the existence of others and their political characters: women and the various minorities also have a right to equality and to self-determination. If we wish to articulate all these de':loc:atic struggles, we must respect their specificity and their autonomy, wh1ch lS to say that we must institutionalize a true pluralism, a pluralism

of subJects. A new conception of democracy a lso requires that we transcend a certain individualistic conception of rights and that we elaborate a central notion of solidarity. This can only be achieved if the rights ofcertain subjects are not defended to the detriment of the rights of other subjects. Now it is obvious that, in many cases, the rights of some entail the subordination of the rights of others. The defense of acquired rights is the refore a serious obstacle to the establishment of true equality for all. It is precisely here that one sees the line of demarcation separating the Left's articulation of the resistances of the new social movements from the utilization of these same by the New Right. Whereas the Left's program seeks to set up a system of equivalences among the greatest possible number of democratic demands and thus strives to reduce all inequalities, the Right's solution as a form of populism, satisfies the needs of certain groups by creating n~winequal-

ities. Th~s is ':"hY the politics of the

necessanly wtdens an already deep social split between the privileged and the nonprivileged. The progressive character of a struggle does not depend on its p_lace of origin-we_ ha-:-re said that all workers' struggles are not progres- Sive-but rather on 1ts hnk to other struggles. The longer the chain of equiv- alences set up between the defense of the rights of one group and those of other groups, the deeper will be the democratization process and the more difficult it will be to neutralize certain struggles or make them serve the ends of the Right. The concept of solidarity can be used to form such a chain of democratic equivalences. It is urgent that we establish this new democratic theory, with the concept of solidarity playing the central role, to counter the New Right's offensive in the field of political philosophy. Faced with an effort like Hayek's to redefine freedom individu- alistically, what the Left needs is a postindividualist concept of freedom for it is still over questions of freedom and equality that the decisive ide:

ological battles are being waged. What is at stake is the redefinition of those fundamental notions ; and it is the nature of these relations that will deter- mine the kinds of political subjects who will emerge and the new hegemonic block that will take shape.

latter , instead of extending democrac y,


Chantal Mouffe

To combine equality and liberty successfully in a new vision of democracy, one that recognizes the multiplicity of social relations and their corresponding subject positions , requires that we achieve a task conceived at the beginning of th e democratic revolution, one that defines the kind of politics required for the advent of modernity. If to speak of socialism still means anything, it should be to designate an extension of the democratic revolution to the entirety of social relations and the attainment of a radical, libertarian, and plural democracy. Our objective, in other words, is none other than the goal Tocqueville perceived as that of democratic peoples, that ultimate point where freedom and equality meet and fuse, where people "will be perfectly free because they are entirely equal, and where they will all be perfectly equal because they are entirely free."


Discussion Question · . · Could you elaborate on what it is about liberal democracy






Could you elaborate on what it is about liberal democracy that needs to be redefined, and wha t a superseded or redefined li beral democracy of the Left would be like?


Let me reiterate what I said in the paper while elaborating

a number of points. First, it is important to distinguish between democratic and liberal theory. What we know today as a single ideology-liberal democracy-is in

fact the result of an articulation that took place during the nineteenth century. While

many Marxists have assumed t hat

contradiction between the two, C. B. MacPherson has shown that the idea of de- mocracy was articulated to t hat of liberalism only through struggle . That struggle crea ted the organic ideology th at is still, in some sense, dominant today-liberal democracy. The cost, of course, was that democracy was liberalized, though one can also say li beralism was democratized. In this way democratic ideology became linked

to mea n the li berty to have your

democracy is i n essence libe ra l, t ha t there is no

wit h the defense of priva te property. Liberty came

own property . I think we have to fight this rest ric t ion of the idea of democracy by rearticula ting democracy with other important concepts to elaborate what I call a

"radical, plural, and libertarian democracy."

Of course, we are also confron ted by the neoconservative

effort to seve r the li nk be tween liberalism and democ racy by redefining

as individual freedom . This is clearly a defense of private property, one that severs

th e li nk betwee n democracy and political eq ua l ity. If the idea of democracy

litical eq uality has been incorporated a nd disarmed through its articulation with liberalism , it nevertheless remains potentially subversive. That is w hy the New R ight '

de m ocracy

as po-

is attempting to b reak with liberal democratic ideology by rearticu lating liberalism

without democracy, thereby transforming liberal democracy into liberal conserva- tism. I t hink the Left should also be trying to se ver the link between li beralism and

d emocracy, b ut in order to radicalize the concept of democracy . To do that we need to work a t t he level of political philosophy, to rearticulate ideas of equality and justice.

consider w h at kind of i n s t itu t io n s we

would need in a radical democratic society. Left-wing Euro-communists have done some reflection here, proposing to augment represen tative democratic institutions with several forms of grass-roots democracy, both at the level of the workplace and

at the level of the community. This is necessary but not e nough , because it will not

guara n t ee the in cl usion of the wide range of democra t ic demands tha t must be

represented in the expan sive hegemony I have called fo r. For example, grass-roots democracy in a factory will not necessarily involve feminism or ecology. These questions clearly call for a new type of autogestion, a type of self-management that cannot be seen simply as laborers managing their own factory. We can perfectly well

imagine a situation in which workers manage the ir factory without rea ll y taking care

of t he environment, without responding to the demands o f women. To do so would

involve reth inking wh at kinds of products we want to see produced by society. This

new model of self-managemen t would constitute a generalized, extended au togestion.

T hi s is the form of institution needed for a radical libertarian democra cy to be

implemented. It must be a democracy with a plural ity of such institutions at d ifferent levels of the social formation.

Finally, we need to


Could you e labo rate on the concept of expa nsi ve hege m ony and on how different demands wou ld be related wi thin the collective wi ll?


F irst, as I read Gramsci , I don't think it is corre ct to see hegem o ny as the imposition of a class ideology on undergroups, as many have done.


Chantal Mouffe What I've been defending is a view of hegemony as the articulation of demands coming from different groups to what Gramsci called a "hegemonic principle." But he distinguished two ways in which such demands can be articulated. One is through neutralization: you can take account of the demand of some group, not to transform society so as to reso lve the antagonism it expresses, but only so as to impede the ex tension of that demand. That is what the New Right is doing when it takes account of some of the resistances against the new hegemonic system. It tries to neutralize demands by creating antagonisms that prevent the creation of a chain of equivalence between various democratic demands. That is how I understand hegemony by neu- tralization.

The opposite way demands are articulated is in what Gram- sci called the "expansive hegemony." Rather than neutralize demands, an expansive hegemony links them with all other democratic struggles to establish a chain of equivalence. Of course, the wider the chain of equ ivalence, the wider the democ- ratization of society, and the wider the collective will to be built on that basis. Then it would be unthinkable for workers to fight for their rights only and not, at the same time, for the rights of gays and women. It is important to reiterate that what makes a struggle democratic is not where it co mes from but the way it is articulated

with other

autonomy and specificity of the demands of different groups. It is not just a matter of saying that all th ose demands are implicit in the demands of the working class;

that once the working class comes to power, racial , sexual, and gender contradictions

will disappear.

Once we accept that there is no one pnvilcged struggle, no single origin to all forms of domination, we must then avo id creating a hierarchy of struggles. Moreover, when we realize that most struggles are struggles to demand rights, we can recognize that in many cases rights have been acquired by creating inequalities with respect to other groups. The rights of some exist because others are in a subordinate position. That is certainly the case for the demands of the working class. The workers now have some rights by virtue of the oppression of blacks and women; the demand to give these oppressed groups their rights must mean that some of the rights of the workers must be abridged. Thus, any attempt to reduce inequalities among the working class requires the transformation of the subjectivity of the workers. And for that we need a ne w organic ideology that defines equality in a different way, not just on the basis of rights. In a sense, we need the elaboration of a postindividuali st liberalism in which rights are defined not as a personal possession but as a form of solidarity among al l opp ressed groups. In calling this a form of liberalism I am suggesting that it is dangerous to do away with liberalism entire ly, a danger reflec ted in the Soviet Union.

democratic struggles. Yet such an expansive

hegemon y must respect the

Quest ion

Given your emphases on the need not to compromise the autonomy of various movements and on the plurality of discourses, how can you speak of a single collective will? Who could possibly interpret such a will ?


I suppose you are right; " collective will" is a metaphor, and it is not necessarily a very good one! It was obviously a reference to Gramsci. In

Gramsci the collective will is orga nized through the party on the basis of the he- gemony of the proletariat. He believed that the working class necessarily provides the articulating principle for an expa ns ive hegemony. To import that notion into my discourse creates a series of problems. Although I don't want to argue tha t the

working class can never


stances it might be-l do want to argue that it won't always be. While it may, under

certain historical

conditio n s, develop the political capaci ty to represe nt the interests

of others, we can also imagi ne that in o t her circumsta nces another social movement

be th e articulating principle-of course, in some


can be the center. We can also imagine that there might not be any cen ter; there is no reason why there should necessarily be a center of an expansive hegemony. As a consequence, contrary to Gramsci, I do not believe that the party-and I am not thinking only of the Leninist party, but of any party-will necessarily be the agent of change. A party can be too authoritarian and too rigid to articulate all those different movements so as to maintain their autonomy. On the other hand, some people argue that once you question the necessary hegemony of the party and the working class, you are left with pure diversity; they go on to

argue that there need not be any articu lation of

tho se struggles. But if you believe

there must be an articulating principle, and it is not provided by the party, where will it be found? I think it is a mistake to look for one organization, the "good" organization. We need to think in terms of the articulations that must take place. Those forms of articulation will differ according to the country. For instance, I do not believe that trade unions can always play an important role. They can play an important role in France and Italy, but it is very unlikely that they can in England or Germany.

So there are no recipes. Intellectuals must abandon the idea that they have to tell the people how to organize, to design a blueprint for the "good" organization. All spontaneous revolutions-such as those in Hungary and Poland- ha ve shown that people find their own form of organizatio n. Each society must find its own way of articulating its different struggles together. And there will be different forms of articulation. So we can only use the Gramscian notion of a national col- lective will, or a popular national will, in a metaphoric way. Like Rousseau's concept of a general will, it can imply too much homogeneity.


It seems to me that we are witnessing two different theoret- ical moves in Marxism today, with different political consequences. The first is a more traditional materialism and looks at the economic impact of and on discourse. But it apparently results in political pessimism. The second, which seems to be yours, privileges discourse as a way of transforming consciousness and agency. It gives a more optimistic political prognosis, but it fails to connect discourse to actual social groups and institutions. In that sense, it seems to be a new form of idealism. Could comment on this?



I must say that I cannot accept the opposition between ide- alism and materialism-it doesn't pertain to my semantic world- and in that I think

I follow Gramsci. One can show that materialism is idealist, because to think that there is only one principle of explanation, be it matter or ideas, is in fact the same problematic. In any case, I don't understand what you mean by describing me as

writing but

also a series of social practices, so discourse is not just a question of ideas. That

of ideas is not important, wh ich is why

I made the point about political philosophy. Here, again, I follow Gramsci who said that philosophy, as ideology, permeates all levels of consciousness. Even common sense is informed by philosophy. Philosophy is where the categories of thought are elaborated, allowing us to speak about our experience. For example, many people who have never read anything about democratic theory nevertheless speak and act as political subjects on the basis of ideas elaborated by ph ilosophers. That is why I insist on that level of ana lysis. But I am not saying this is all we need. We won't transform the world simply by writing the last word on equali ty. But it is important in constructing new political subjects, so it is one dimension of the struggle.

idealist, especially since by discourse I unde rstand not only speech and


mean that th e elaboration of a level



Catharine A. MacKinnon

Desire and Power: A Feminist Perspective

This conference, however broad its inspirati?n, so- phisticated its conception , competent its ~rganization, and elaboratem what is called here "articulation," was not pnnc1pally set up to ~aximize con- ferring. Conferring happens interstitially. Instead , those Identified as speak- ers do what are called "talks" ; however, we read them. They are called "works in progress"; however, many of them are quite "d?ne." The audience responds with what are called "qu~stions," many of wh1ch are In the form of statements. This event presents 1tself as a dialogue but operates through

a linear series of speeches. We are presented as being engaged 1n a process, when in actuality we gather to produce a product. We are In a productiOn- consumption cycle, the product being the boo~ that will com~ out of all of

this. The silence that comprises the audiences or. the reader .s half of the dialogue makes my half sound like one hand clappmg. ~n ommo us s~und,

I should think for anyone trained on the Left. In part1al, 1f enurely mad-

equate, respon~eto these thoughts, I have, in revising my paper, Interspersed

questions I received both at the time of the conference and smce, along With

some partial responses. I have also retained the rhetoncal style of an address to an audience. These expository choices are an attempt to make this paper

. One more thing about the politics of th1s proJ.ect and my place in it. We purport to want to change things, but we talk m w~ys that no one understands. We know that discourses have fashw.ns, that were

in the midst of a certai n fashio n now , and a few years later 1t wii! be another, and ten years ago it was different. We know bette~ ~han to think that. th1s

is the pure onward progress of knowledge. We partiCipate In these fashwns,

are swept along in them, but we don't set thef!l. I'm pa0icularly con.cerned that in talking thus fashionably about complicated realities-and I m not

saying that what we have said here is not central to real concerns-we often have highly coded conversations. Not o nly one-sid ed but coded. What con- ditions create access to the latest code book? Sometimes I think to myself, MacKinnon, you wnte. Do you remember that the majority of the world's illiterates are wo~en? What are you doing? I feel that powerfully when I think ~bout what bnngs us all here-which is to make the changes we are talking about. When someone condemns someone else for the use ofjargon, they tend to suppose that they themselves speak plain plate-glass. I'm not exempting myself from

more dialogic and open-textured, even if only margmally so