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New Left Review I/167, January-February 1988

Nicos Mouzelis

Marxism or Post-Marxism?

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy [1] E. Laclau and C. Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, Verso, London 1985. This article was written before their reply to Norman Geras appeared in nlr. and Norman Geras’s lengthy review article (‘Post-Marxism’, nlr 163) raise issues which are at the heart of the ongoing debate on the stature and prospects of contemporary Marxist theory. Laclau and Mouffe’s major thesis is that the core of all Marxist theory is based on a necessitarian, deterministic logic which emphasizes iron laws, a strict succession of stages, the inevitability of the proletarian revolution, and so on. This logic reduces complexity and leads to an essentialist view of the social and to a closed, monistic type of theoretical discourse. All attempts from Marx onwards to soften Marxism’s deterministic core by stressing indeterminacy, complexity, the importance of agency, the relative autonomy of the political etc. are simply ad hoc additions to a theoretical edifice which, in its foundations, remains irretrievably monistic. In other terms, when Marxists, past and present, try to avoid determinism, they unavoidably fall into the trap of ‘dualism’ or eclecticism. Therefore a deterministic closure of electicism/dualism is the grim dilemma of all Marxist theory.

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