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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter approaches populism by first outlining the impasses surrounding the concept in political science debates and then turning attention to two Latin American theorists of populism and the people: Ernesto Laclau and Enrique Dussel. While both approach populism from a Latin American perspective, Laclau refuses to be contained by this context and instead formulates a universal logic of populism as no less than the logic of politics itself. Dussel, by contrast, resists this leap to the universal by grounding the people in Latin America and filling it with specifically Latin American content, only maintaining the universal as a distant horizon under permanent construction. With this disagreement in hand—which has powerful implications for the question of democracy itself—the piece then turns to Venezuela as an example of both the potential and the tensions of populist mobilization. While Chavismo is often treated as the epitome of Laclau’s populism, the chapter argues that both political dynamics and theorizations of the people by Venezuelan intellectuals exceed and contradict Laclau in key ways, bearing closer affinity to Dussel’s work and pointing toward the radically expansive democratic potential of the people.

Keywords: populism, Laclau, Dussel, the people, universals, democracy, Latin America

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