On Populist Reason. By Ernesto Laclau. New York: Verso, 2005.
224p. $26.00 cloth, $20.00 paper.
Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. Edited by Francisco
Panizza. New York: Verso, 2005. 288p. $75.00 cloth, $25.00 paper.
In the wake of Thomas Frank's bestselling book What's
the Matter With Kansas (2004), scholars and citizens are turning to
the concept of populism as a way to make sense of the strength and
popularity of the far Right in the United States. In order to unravel the
puzzle of why working-class voters would enthusiastically support a
political party that is committed to cutting taxes for the wealthy,
dismantling popular social programs, and subsidizing corporate welfare,
scholars need to jettison the old Marxist-inspired paradigm that assumes
that political identities are products of economic interests. At least
that is one of the lessons of Ernesto Laclau's fascinating book.