In this book Chantal Mouffe gives one of her earlier applications of the conceptual scheme developed in her theoretical critique written with Ernesto Laclau,'Hegemony and Socialist Strategy'(HSS).It is here that Mouffe insists on the ever-presence of the political in social life.The political is ineluctable.To eliminate it would be to eliminate identity itself - if that could be done!
This,together with other works by Mouffe,offer an empirical exploration and elaboration that will be perhaps more attractive to readers new to these ideas than going straight into HSS from a cold start.
If you've heard of Chantal Mouffe it is probably from the book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, which she co-authored with Ernesto Laclau. This volume is a collection of essays - mostly pre-published - written after this book's academic success. The core themes remain the same, and Mouffe adds little that a careful reader will not have picked up from the earlier book, except to extend her work into critiques and appropriations of different authors, and to dispel any illusions readers may have that there is a difference between "radical democracy" and actually-existing liberal democracy. For saying that she is basically advocating the political status quo, she spends a lot of time denouncing others who share this alignment, usually for the sin of "refusing to accept" the primacy of lack and antagonism in social life. Conventional liberals such as John Rawls and "deliberative democrats" such as Jurgen Habermas are equally placed under Mouffe's Lacanian guillotine, although the substance of her critique is often very light and has little bearing on political conclusions. This is disappointing given the title, because the book has very little to say about politics as such. Most of it is given over to considerations of the ontological "conditions of possibility" for political life. The reasons why a reader should accept the idea of constitutive lack have never been well set out in Mouffe's work, and this book adds very little to her reasoning. On the whole I would say that this is a kind of "collected papers" for Mouffe fans.