review

[The other day there was a small book launch for Posthegemony here at UBC. My colleagues and friends Brianne Orr-Alvarez, Oscar Cabezas, and Gastón Gordillo all presented critical reviews of the book. Here, by kind permission, is Oscar’s…]

This book is an attempt to re-think the concept of politics beyond cultural studies and political theories on civil society. In his approach to various Latin American cultural and political phenomena, Jon Beasley-Murray re-opens a debate on key concepts of politics —hegemony, civil society and the State, among others— in order to criticize any conceptualization in which the State excludes the Negrian concept of multitude. Through neo-Spinozan notions derived from Antonio Negri, Gilles Deleuze, and Michel Foucault, and the Bourdieusian concept of habits, Beasley-Murray proposes to undermine not only Laclau and Mouffe’s Post-Marxist concept of hegemony, but also the understanding of ideology as the master concept of the Marxist tradition. Thus, posthegemony is not simply a transitional concept that overcomes the concept of hegemony, but also an alternative mode of thinking political theory and Latin American studies. Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America engages with the richest debates in political theory and simultaneously with the most paradigmatic events in Latin American history.

The wonderfully written five chapters of this book develop the notion of posthegemony in the following manner. In the prologue “October 10, 1492,” Beasley-Murray analyses the legitimating mechanisms of colonization by the Spaniards in the 15th Century (the so-called Requerimiento). The author argues that the Requerimiento has nothing to do with the construction of hegemony but with a violent act of coercion. This preliminary remark leads to the first chapter, “Argentina 1972: Cultural Studies and Populism,” which contains a discussion of National-Populism in Argentina (1972). The author denounces the love-pact between people and the nation in its exclusion of the multitude. This chapter is not only a critique of national populism but also a critique of Laclau and Mouffe’s post-Marxist concept of hegemony. What the author denounces is the imbrication between the concept of hegemony and neo-populism. The second chapter, “Ayacucho 1982: Civil Society Theory and Neoliberalism,” offers a description of Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato’s theory of civil society and shows its failure in the study of one of the bloodiest Maoist guerrilla movements that took place in Peru (Sendero Luminoso). By the same token, it also shows the structural violence inherent to neo-liberalism in the Southern Cone. In the third chapter, “Escalón 1989: Deleuze and Affect,” one of the book’s best, Beasley-Murray describes the offensive of the FMLN in El Salvador as a paradox between political violence and “lines of flight.” He also develops the Deleuzian theory of affects as an attempt to de-territorialize the capture of the revolutionary movement into the state-apparatus. In the fourth chapter, “Chile 1992: Bourdieu and Habit,” the author extends the theory of affects in Deleuze through Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “habit”. The chapter offers an analytical understanding of the correlations between power and bodies through the history of the traumatic Chilean transition from Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship to a neoliberal democracy. In the concluding chapter of the book, “Conclusion: Negri and Multitude,” Beasley-Murray describes Negri’s concept of multitude as an opening to rethinking politics in Latin America. This chapter could be read side by side with the Epilogue, “April 13, 2002,” where the author shows how the constituent power of the multitude breaks the “fiction” of hegemony in the paradigmatic conflict of the so-called Caracazo in Venezuela.

Read more… (pdf file)

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