With her new essay, Chantal Mouffe puts “left populism” in the green

With her new essay, Chantal Mouffe puts “left populism” in the green

“The Green Democratic Revolution. Le Pouvoir des affects en politique” (Towards a Green Democratic Revolution. Left Populism and the Power of Affects), by Chantal Mouffe, translated from English by Christophe Beslon, Albin Michel, 108 p., €15.90, digital 12 €.

The new essay by philosopher Chantal Mouffe has a title that is as enticing as it is misleading: The Green Democratic Revolution. More accurate would have been the title of the conference from which it came: “Why a populist left should rally around a green democratic transformation”. His goal: to save the “left populism” thanks to the ecological issue. With her husband, the political scientist Ernesto Laclau (1935-2014), Chantal Mouffe indeed developed a strategy consisting in centering left-wing movements on the cleavage between ” people ” And “oligarchy”. Matured in Argentina, this approach experienced an unexpected spread, after the 2007-2008 crisis, in Spain, Greece and France. Its decline is no less spectacular, to the point that many are announcing its end. Something to annoy Chantal Mouffe: it is the insufficient fidelity to her line, she wants to believe, which would explain the failures of the populists on the left.

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Above all, the new context – climate challengeCovid-19 crisis, which would be instrumentalized by a “authoritarian digital neoliberalism” – would make it more relevant than ever. The proof would be that the Green New Deal and ecological planning projects of the left of the American Democratic Party and La France insoumise, of which Chantal Mouffe is a faithful supporter, take into account both the end of the world and the end of the month, by promising industrial conversion and full employment. It is still necessary, and this is the claimed contribution of this short text, to find the winning strategy.

For Chantal Mouffe, it resides in the mobilization of “libidinal affective energy”that is to say passions, in order to revive the antagonism between ” We ” (the people) and ” them ” (the oligarchy) in an emancipatory horizon. Thus we can orient the ” resentment ” understandable from far-right voters to the just causes of left-wing populist organizations.

Caricaturing his philosophical adversaries

If Chantal Mouffe advises avoiding making the extreme right the main enemy, she does not hesitate, on the other hand, to caricature her philosophical opponents. Thus there would be, on the one hand, the narrow-minded partisans of a rationalist conception of democracy – like its pet peeve Jürgen Habermas –, moralizing apostles of a weak consensus, therefore voluntary accomplices or objectives of neoliberalism; and, on the other, the lucid defenders of left populism – herself and those close to her – who value collective identity passions and the democratic struggle. That we can, however, conceive of democracy in its double dimension, deliberative and conflictual, or even rational and affective; that some have reason to distrust populism, without being hideous neoliberals, elitists or centre-left traitors, seems to escape this binary rhetoric.

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