Populism, Hegemony, and the Phantasmatic Sovereign: The Ties Between Nationalism and Left-Wing Populism

  • Emmy Eklundh


Based on the rise (or return) of populist parties in Europe, theories of populism have re-entered political and academic debates. In particular, Ernesto Laclau’s works have gained renewed status as plausible explanations for why and how new parties form. However, an adoption of Laclau’s framework onto current events carries several implications, which will be the focus of this chapter. First, there is an increased tendency to use Laclau’s work as an instruction manual, rather than as merely a social theory. For instance, Podemos in Spain have openly announced the influence of Laclau on their political program, and emphasized the need for articulating a chain of equivalence to create a counter-hegemonic political force, “the people.” Second, the theory of hegemony as used by new populist parties in Europe reinforces the idea of political subjectivity as aligned with the national sovereign. A counter-discourse against the hegemonic practices of the European Union has been intertwined with an increased focus on national autonomy, which does not heavily discriminate against more reactionary nationalist currents. This chapter concludes by arguing that using Laclau’s theory as a roadmap could be adopted also by non-emancipatory projects, thus misappropriating Laclau’s proposed intentions, and once again making national sovereignty the phantasmatic political goal.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emmy Eklundh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of European & International StudiesKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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