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Thinking political sociology: beyond the limits of post-Marxism

By Kate Nash


This article is concerned with post-Marxism and materialism in the work of Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. As ‘post-Marxists’ these writers use ‘material’ in a variety of ways, all of which indicate limits and constraints. The article focuses on one version of ‘materialism’ in this work, a version that is more implied than elaborated, in which ‘material’ is equivalent to institutionalized performativity or sedimented discourse: to ‘objective’ social structures and institutions. Post-Marxists often use ‘the social’ as equivalent to ‘material’ in this sense, to gesture towards the context in which politics succeeds or fails. I argue that the specificities of ‘the social’ cannot be theorized from within the terms of post-Marxism itself and that Butler and Laclau acknowledge this limitation in their most recent work. I therefore conclude that post-Marxism needs a supplement that I call political sociology. This is a dangerous supplement in the Derridean sense: a necessary addition that destabilizes the value post-Marxism gives to the distinction between ‘social’ and ‘political’ in which the latter is the privileged term

Publisher: Sage
Year: 2002
OAI identifier:

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