Constellations 23 (2):269-280 (2016)

Itay Snir
Yezreel Valley Academic College
This article focuses on the concept of common sense in order to shed new light on the radical and pluralist democracy developed by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. It is argued that their move via Antonio Gramsci away from both Marxism and traditional liberal democracy cannot be fully understood without reference to the role common sense plays in it. Focusing on common sense reveals crucial aspects of the relations between intellectuals and ordinary people in Laclau and Mouffe's political theory, and how they deal with problems of embedded hierarchy, characteristic of modern political thought. First I reconstruct Gramsci's concept of common sense, trace its origins and analyze its egalitarian aspect. Next I present the concept's novelty with regard to other modern political theories and their presuppositions, and discuss Gramsci's eventual commitment to the latter. I then turn to discussing both the reasons why Laclau and Mouffe cannot accept the traditional concept of common sense and why they assert that constructing some sort of common sense is necessary for the formation of democratic hegemony. Finally, I argue that Laclau and Mouffe can be seen as having dealt with the problems that result from the need for common sense and the inability to accept it only if we interpret their concept of common sense as a development of Gramsci's, namely as a heterogeneous matrix of various incompatible "common senses".
Keywords Ernesto Laclau  Chantal Mouffe  common sense  hegemony  radical democracy  post-Marxism
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DOI 10.1111/1467-8675.12203
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