Chantal Mouffe ° Towards an Agonistic Conception of Assembly

While having sympathy for activist movements like OWS, the Spanish Indignados or the French Nuit Debuit, political theorist Chantal Mouffe has long criticized their rejection of representative democracy as well as their focus on the concept of consensus. Instead Mouffe emphasizes the necessity of an agonistic pluralism in which adversaries can openly fight for their hegemonic projects. Agonistic assemblies – as the recent feminist strikes in Latin America or the actions by Extinction Rebellion – provide a space for dissensus and allow alliances that reach beyond their own peer group. By articulating a “chain of equivalence” between several democratic demands – of workers, feminists, eco-activists, civil right movements, LGBTQ+ groups etc – it is possible to create a collective will while still acknowledging the specificity of the respective struggles. A special role plays the mobilisation of affects and passion. For Mouffe it is clear: A collective cannot be created solely on the basis of arguments and a good program.

Biography

Chantal Mouffe is Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London. She has taught and researched in many universities in Europe, North America and South America and she is a corresponding member of the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. She is the editor of Gramsci and Marxist Theory (1979), Dimensions of Radical Democracy. Pluralism, Citizenship, Community (1992), Deconstruction and Pragmatism (1996) and The Challenge of Carl Schmitt (1999). She is the author of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (with Ernesto Laclau, 1985), The Return of the Political (1993), The Democratic Paradox (2000), On the Political (2005), Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically (2013), Podemos. In the Name of the People (with Inigo Errejon, 2016), and For a Left Populism (2019).

Videos

The Art of Assembly VII: „Agonistic Gatherings“ with Didier Eribon, Chantal Mouffe & Florian Malzacher

Introduction to Laclau & Mouffe (UNSW eLearning)

Chantal Mouffe & Pablo Iglesias on Podemos (in Spanish only)