The death and resurrection of the theory of ideology

  • Laclau E
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This article deals with the reasons that have led to an increasing abandonment of the concept of ?ideology? and with the basis of its possible reemergence. The abandonment of the concept is explained on the one hand by its increasing inflation accompanying the crisis of a holistic and naturalistic conception of the social, and on the other hand by the erosion of those metalinguistic positions which provided a neutral viewpoint from which to expose the various forms of a distorted consciousness. Consequently, the ?ideological? invaded the totality of the social field and lost all analytic value. It is argued that the notion of ?distortion? cannot be abandoned, as far as a post? ?critique of ideology? approach asserts that the illusion of closure is the main source of a distorted consciousness. The conditions of possibility of a constitutive distortion are then explored in connection with the logic of equivalence in the production of social meaning. The results of this analysis are illustrated through three examples: the distinction between ?thick? and ?thin? morality in Michael Walzer, the construction of a ?beyond all differences? in mystical discourse, and the structure of myth in Georges Sorel. Some general conclusions follow on the working of the ideological and the (impossible) conditions of its extinction.

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  • Ernesto Laclau

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