Thinking political sociology: beyond the limits of post-Marxism

Nash, Kate. 2002. Thinking political sociology: beyond the limits of post-Marxism. History of the Human Sciences, 15(4), pp. 97-114. ISSN 0952-6951 [Article]


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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.

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hegemony, materialism, performativity, political sociology, ‘the social’

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Date Deposited:

19 Oct 2007

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:28

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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