We, the Peoples: Populist Leadership, Neoliberalism and Decoloniality

Lars Cornelissen


This article engages with the limits of Ernesto Laclau's theory of populism,
focusing on the logic of popular identification. The central argument is that the
Laclauian framework is incapable of accounting for recent forms of populism
that articulate a decolonial mode of identification. More specifically, the article
shows that for Laclau, leadership and exclusion are necessary components of
popular identification, in which the identity of ‘the people' depends on the prior
symbolic articulation of both an enemy and a leader. Although this theory of
populism is well-positioned to explain how populist leadership functioned in
several mid-century Latin American varieties of populism, it founders when
faced with more recent forms of populist identification. Careful analysis of
contemporary Ecuadorian and Bolivian populisms shows that these implicitly
reject the Laclauian model of identification, articulating instead a decolonial
model that advocates the plurality of identities and mobilises rich national
histories of anti-colonial resistance.

Palabras clave

Ernesto Laclau, populism, popular identification, decoloniality, neoliberalism, Perónism

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ISSN de la edición impresa: 1575-6823

ISSN digital: 2340-2199

Depósito legal: SE 235-2015

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