Numero 54. Populisme/Contre-populisme

Octobre 2013

Ce numéro est disponible en ligne sur le site du Cairn

[Sommaire]   [Auteurs]    [ Abstracts]

Le développement de la crise s’accompagne, tout particulièrement en Europe, d’une inquiétude croissante concernant le populisme. D’un côté, la progression de différents partis ou mouvements nationalistes xénophobes fait du « populisme » l’un des pires dangers politiques de l’époque. De l’autre, la plupart de ceux qui ont critiqué les politiques austéritaires et non-démocratiques qui sont la source de ces dangers, se sont vus dénoncés comme « populistes ». Le populisme, fantôme bifide, hante l’Europe et il conditionnera sans doute son avenir.
Comment les populismes se rattachent-ils à la fonction centrale conférée au « peuple » dans la politique moderne ? Comment rendre compte de la variété des populismes, au-delà des consensus stigmatisants ? Quelle est la meilleure réponse aux populismes nationalistes et xénophobes : un populisme de gauche ou un contre-populisme ? Ces questions sont considérées ici dans leurs implications générales et sous des formes concrètes (Grèce, Italie et Venezuela notamment).

Étienne BALIBAR, Europe : l’impuissance des nations et la question « populiste »
Gérard BRAS, Le peuple entre raison et affects. À propos d’un concept de la politique moderne
Jean-Claude BOURDIN, Marx et le lumpenprolétariat
Federico TARRAGONI, La science du populisme au crible de la critique sociologique : archéologie d’un mépris savant du peuple
Guillaume SIBERTIN-BLANC, Du simulacre démocratique à la fabulation du peuple : le populisme minoritaire
Sebastián BARROS, Le préjugé politique et le peuple. Note sur les populismes latino-américains
Boaventura de SOUSA SANTOS, Chávez: l’héritage, les défis
Yannis STAVRAKAKIS, Peuple, populisme et anti-populisme : le discours politique grec à l’ombre de la crise européenne
Ida DOMINIJANNI, Populisme post-œdipien et démocratie néo-liberale. Le cas italien

Emmanuel RENAULT, Dewey, Hook et Mao : quelques affinités entre marxisme et pragmatisme
Vincent HOUILLON, Restitution de Marx. Lectures croisées de Michel Henry et Jacques Derrida
Jean-Christophe ANGAUT, Retour sur les critiques anarchistes du marxisme

Aditya NIGAM, Marxisme, modernité et politique d’émancipation en Inde



Jean-Christophe Angaut, A Reconsideration of the Anarchist Critiques of Marxism

There is a tendency evident in the various strands of contemporary anarchism to ignore both Marx, Marxism and the history of Marxism, and the critiques formulated by the anarchist tradition. Against this tendency, the aim of the present article is to emphasize both the contemporary relevance of these critiques and the contribution of Marxism to a radical critique of all forms of domination. It therefore recalls the role played by the critique of Marxism in the elaboration of the anarchist movement, whether for the philosophy of history, the status of the political, the role of organization, or the postulate that the revolutionary subject is to be exclusively identified with the proletariat. While some of the critiques are aimed more at the Second International than at Marx himself, they do however retain their relevance in our present situation. They are, furthermore, here coupled with the attempt to go beyond the exclusive partiality of these two traditions, the Marxist and the anarchist. The question of self-emancipation thus finally emerges as the most important and problematic heritage of the conflict between Marxism and anarchism.

Keywords: Marxism, anarchism, anti-Marxism, Bakunin, philosophy of history, anti-politics


Étienne Balibar, Europe: The Powerlessness of Nations and the « Populist » Question

In this article, drawn from a contribution to the series “Uses of Xenophobia” on openDemocracy (, the author discusses the relevance of the category of “populism” to an analysis of the manifestations of xenophobia in the context of the crisis of the construction of Europe. It criticizes the confusion of uses which blurs the political antitheses. It warns against the drawing of any facile analogy between the present situation and the effects of the earlier major economic, political and moral crisis, that of the 1930’s, while at the same time stressing the impossibility of completely avoiding such comparisons. More specifically, the author indicates two specific roots of the resurgence of nationalism in aggressive forms: the incapacity of the European Union to defend its own pluralism, and therefore national and cultural diversity, against the utilitarian processes of normalization, and the devastating social effects following from the destruction of the “social state” which was constructed in the 20th century within a national framework. For a reconstruction of Europe, which has now become inevitable, these two problems must be directly addressed.

Keywords: de-democratisation, fascism, normalisation, protection, xenophobia.

 Sebastián Barros, Political Prejudice and the People: Some Notes on Latin-American Populisms
As a recurrent phenomenon in Latin America, populism has been analyzed in various ways. This paper argues that, while displaying a certain diversity, most of the interpretations regarding the nature of populist experiments draw on similar representations of the People. These representations are furthermore grounded on a biased political viewpoint which tends to apprehend populism as a community of heteronomous masses molded by a charismatic and authoritarian leader, who invokes the People in his attempt to polarize political life. Such prejudices result in populism being regarded as a threat both to pluralism and to the intermediary institutions of liberal democracy. The article thus intends to show that such interpretations present a number of shortcomings, which can only be superseded by way of the adoption of a political perspective which aims to apprehend both the processes through which popular identities are produced and the populist representations of the community from below.

Keywords: Laclau, populism, Latin America, popular identifications, people.

 Gérard Bras, The People: Between Reason and Affects, Some Reflections on a Concept in Modern Politics
The aim of the article is to reflect on the notion of the people as a concept in politics. It argues that, thus considered, the concept is an essentially ambiguous one that is caught up in a conflictual field where competing forces struggle to appropriate it, thus conferring on it a meaning which can only be understood in opposition to other valencies. Such an ambiguity can be regarded as the ideological matrix of the opposition between republicanism and populism. It is exhibited in the discursive event which, through the voice of Mirabeau in June 1789, inaugurated the usage of the concept in modern politics. The article will thus examine Hegel’s failed attempt to devise a philosophical conceptualisation of the term, which he finally casts aside in favor of the category of the State. Returning to Mirabeau, it highlights the affective dimension of the word, when the notion is apprehended as a factor of unification of the multitude.

Keywords: People, State, Mirabeau, Hegel, affects.

 Jean-Claude Bourdin, Marx and the Lumpenproletariat
Marx’s use of the word “lumpenproletariat” first strikes us by its violence: the term functions as a derogatory stigmatization of heterogeneous groups whose social position is essentially one that is determined by the sphere of exchange and pure circulation in a service economy. The study of Marx’s use of the term demonstrates that it is not a concept: it alludes to the problem posed by the participation of proletarians in the repression of June 1848 or by the lazzaroni in the failure of the liberal revolutions. The term does not designate a “class”. Its use is rather to identify a type of behavior evident at all levels of the society: predation, enrichment by misappropriation, the improductive speculations undertaken by the “declasses” of a society’s “Bohème”. The hypothesis advanced here is that Marx’s articulation between the lumpenproletariat and the importance of the ethical evaluation of its tenuous relation to work partly derives from the Hegelian conception of poverty (the “social question”). An analysis of the “inhuman” needs and the speculative deduction of the proletariat in 1844 demonstrates that the negative determinations of the proletariat establish the lumpenproletariat as the proletariat of the proletariat. The difference is then located in the revolutionary subjectivity of the proletarians, to which the members of the lumpenproletariat do not accede.

Keywords: Lumpenproletariat, proletariat, vagabonds, revolution, ethic.

 Ida Dominijanni, Post-Oedipian Populism and Neoliberal Democracy: The Case of Italy
In this article Ida Dominjanni, a political essayist who was herself a candidate in the recent Italian parliamentary elections, analyses the causes and meaning of the victory of populist forces over the official reformism, which had been loudly promoted. She offers a genealogy of three successive populist formations, each of which added new instruments of communication and slogans to the earlier ones, within the framework of a general critique of the corruption of the political “caste”, and which repeatedly took advantage of the structural weaknesses of the reformist left, against the backdrop of an ongoing crisis of political parties. By way of a critical discussion of Ernesto Laclau’s influential theory of populism as a “discursive construction of the people”, she illustrates an ontological and political transition from the logic of desiring subjects, subject to the Law, to one of consuming individuals, a shift whose concomitant is the transition from charismatic leadership to the power of transgressive leaders (like Berlusconi and Grillo) drawing on televised images or the control of “egalitarian” discussions on the internet. The passage from representative democracy to the mediatization of politics, characteristic of neoliberalism, would thus seem irreversible, and, in any case, it calls for a realistic assessment.

Keywords: Populism, Berlusconi, Grillo, Laclau, post-oedipianism.

 Vincent Houillon, Marx Restored: Reading Michel Henry with Jacques Derrida
Michel Henry’s reading of Marx provides a warning concerning the dangers which the crisis of Marxism has exposed: the objective and alienating abstraction of the individual living outside itself, whether in actually existing communism or in a technicised capitalism, the two forms he denounces as destructions of life. The crisis of Marxism thus stems from the disappropriation of Marx and from the error of endowing economic reality with a status of objective reality, while the crisis of capitalism derives from the primacy of the technical, which expels living work and dispossesses the worker of his own life. What is at stake in Michel Henry’s interpretation thus hinges on the meaning of the gesture of “restoring” Marx to the site of the living, which Henry establishes as the foundation of all existence and reality. The article therefore questions the possibility of such a gesture of restitution and the various meanings it can take on, by way of a deconstruction of its various implementations. The aim is to envisage a critique that no longer operates solely by way of a mere “restitution” of Marx to the category of preserved “unharmed” life.

Keywords: Marx, Henry, Derrida, phenomenology, Marxism.

 Aditya Nigam, Marxism, Modernity and Emancipatory Politics in India
A former member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Aditya Nigam is one of India’s well-known public intellectuals. In this interview, Urs Lindner asks him about the current state of Indian Marxism, the contemporary relevance of Althusser and M. N. Roy, the intricacies of the Maoist movement in India and how to get rid of Eurocentric conceptions of modernity. Regarding the latter, Nigam in particular elaborates on questions of popular politics, secularism and environmentalism in India.

Keywords: Marxism, Eurocentrism, popular politics, secularism, ecology.

 Emmanuel Renault, Dewey, Hook, Mao: On Some Affinities between Marxism and Pragmatism
The history of Marxism and of pragmatism have made it difficult for us to imagine today that they were once closely related, in various respects. This has resulted in an underestimation of the affinities between the philosophies of Marx and Dewey or of the influence exercised by Dewey on Marxism in the United States, via Hook, and in China, via Mao. The latter point is indeed the one least well known. Mao drew on Dewey prior to his conversion to Marxism, his approach to which would continue to be durably influenced by the echo of a number of Deweyan themes : the political importance of education, the instrumentalist and pluralist conception of the relation between theory and practice, the invocation of a concept of inquiry. Today it has become possible for us to acknowledge that the history of the 20th century is not exactly what we believe it to be, with the result that we can therefore reconsider the manner in which we inherit it.

Keywords: Marxism, pragmatism, Dewey, Hook, Mao.

 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Chávez: The Heritage and the Challenges
Written following the death of Chávez, the article examines the achievements of the Chavist revolution and the challenges it now faces. Among its achievements can be numbered wealth redistribution, a strategy of regional anti-imperialist integration, and the setting-up of various institutions promoting popular participation. Question marks hang over the solidarity between the civil and military authorities or the sustainability of its economic model. The major challenge does however concern the possibility of sustaining popular participation in a process of democratisation and socialist transformation without the support of charismatic authority.

Keywords: Charismatic authority, institutions, popular participation.

 Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, From Democratic Simulacrum to the Fabulation of the People: Minority Populism
Starting out from the frequently noted indeterminacy of the notion or concept, if not of the effective reality of populism, the article offers a symmetrical inquiry examining the current radicalization of a paradoxical “anti-popular State populism”. Its intention is therefore to reread in this light the analyses put forward by Deleuze and Guattari of the contradictory processes affecting the forms of “governementality” by way of the “majority consensus, which have since come to be qualified as “post-democratic” or “post-political”. This leads the author to reconsider the terms of a “minority strategy” within a larger hypothesis, one which is however determined by the current European conjuncture: a hypothesis according to which the task involved in the critique of populism can only be carried out by way of the concept’s internal politicization: in other works, by way of a rethinking of populism as a fully-fledged political form requiring a problematisation of the relations of power of which it can be the site, and which will address, at least as an open question, the issue of a “democratization of populism” which might be able to divide the notion from within, in a conjuncture where it may no longer be possible to deal with the issue by way of a purely extrinsic critique of the notion.

Keywords: Democratic indeterminacy, metapopulism, majority/minorities, European crisis, Deleuze-Guattari.

 Yannis Stavrakakis, The People, Populism and Anti-Populism: Greek Political Discourse against the Shadow of the European Crisis
Populism is back on the agenda. Against the background of traditional populist mobilisations, the last few decades have been marked by an international resurgence of populist phenomena. However the complex language games and political realignments which have developed around “populism” in the context of the global financial crisis add a further complication to the picture. This is particularly the case in Europe, where the crisis has not so far led to the elaboration of institutional alternatives in the arena of mainstream politics. The crisis has however generated a proliferation of new types of “anti-populist” discourse. Thus whereas Latin-American left-wing populism has been instrumental in resisting the implementation of the “Washington consensus” and while the Occupy movement has re-introduced popular demands into public debate in the US, the predominant European responses to the crisis have failed to register the popular factor and have opted for a post-democratic, if not authoritarian orientation. Located at the forefront of these developments, the Greek case reveals the grave dangers which this entails for democracy and for the future of Europe. It also forces us to adopt a more nuanced approach towards the inevitability and even desirability of certain types of populism.

Keywords: Populism, anti-populism, Greece, crisis, discourse.

 Federico Tarragoni, The Science of Populism as Assessed through the Prism of Sociological Critique: an Archeology of a Knowing Contempt for the People
Populism is one of the most widely-criticised concepts in the social and political sciences. The reasons for such a consensus derive from the concept’s dearth of analytic precision, its empirical elasticity and its normative dimension. However despite reiterated proposals by the community of social scientists for its elimination from the academic vocabulary, the “profane” usage of the term closely shadows the curve of oppositional positions in current European elections. In a context marked by the growing disparity between the dynamic of current politics and the academic analyses to which it gives rise, an epistemological reconsideration of the concept of “populism” is called for, to be carried out on the basis of a double critique, both archeological and genealogical. If sociology wishes to retain and to reconstruct the concept of “populism” on a renewed foundation, this can only be achieved through an exposure of the presuppositions which the idea of the people as unreasonable, antidemocratic and illusion-prone exercised in the elaboration of the category between the 1960s and today. Having thus deconstructed the presuppositions conferring upon the “populologists”, the experts in populism, the auctoritas enabling them to separate the good grain of democracy from the populist chaff, what emerges is a new field of research: the examination of the forms of politisation which a populist politics can induce among those who are the excluded remainder of the liberal contract.

Keywords: People, populism, popular, archeology.