Determined action

I’ve been reading Posthegemonic Musings for a couple of months, but just now, thanks to this post, an excerpt from his book, I finally get what Jon means by posthegemony. I’m also extremely intrigued.

The excerpt dissects populism, cultural studies, and hegemony:

…[P]opulism itself does political work. By presenting hegemony as the only conceivable form of politics, it helps conceal other modes of political command or struggle. Populism enables a series of substitutions that fetishize culture at the expense of the institutional, and establish transcendence and sovereignty in place of immanent processes or micropolitical struggles. Populism simplifies the double register through which the social coheres, obscuring the mechanisms by which transcendence is produced from immanence, subjective emotion from impersonal affect, signifying discourse from asignifying habit, people from multitude, and constituted from constituent power, precisely because it is one of those mechanisms.

Though the author may not appreciate my narrowing definition of populism, these sentences remind me of the “dissenting” public intellectuals that inhabit my little place on Earth, Texas, particularly Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, and Robert Jensen, all of whom are firmly in the populist tradition. These writers affirm the hegemonic notion that “[p]eople stick together, forming societies and submitting to their laws, because in one way or another they think the same things, in the same ways.” They signal their acquiesence in various styles: Ivins’s schtick is that Texas is wacky and cruel but, man, yee-ha, it’s entertaining and it’s our political heritage and culture; Hightower rails at corporate greed and at business sending “our” jobs overseas; Jensen ceaselessly reminds us that we are “citizens of the empire” and need to escape our comfy lives so we can confront our government. The grounds of contestation are marked off, and the roles are determined. Our prominent dissenters may vent their spleens, but by confining their objections within a people-government dyad–by ignoring “other modes of political command or struggle”–they restrict the avenues of resistance, and reinforce the ultimate sovereignty of the State.

But this only captures one aspect of this excellent post.

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2 thoughts on “Determined action

  1. Very helpful. And I look forward to the book, particularly the part where you execute this:

    The task of posthegemony theory is first to uncover what has been obscured in these substitutions, and then to outline the means by which their suppression has been achieved, enforced, naturalized, and legitimated. In sum, social order has to be disarticulated, to reveal both its mute underside and the process by which it has been ventriloquized, made to speak but in another’s voice.

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