Populism Under Hegemony: Competition Fields and Protagonist Populists in Ecuador, India, South Korea, United States, and Venezuela

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Debadatta CHAKRABORTY, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Veda Hyunjin KIM, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Jorge Daniel VASQUEZ, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
This research provides comparative outlook on populist political phenomenon across five cases (Ecuador, India, South Korea, United States, and Venezuela), based on the Gramscian critical theory. By doing so, the authors aim to offer a novel framework to comprehend the modern populism, debating with the existing literature, especially with Ernesto Laclau. While Laclau, through his series of theorization attempts, puts forth a mobilizational potential of the populism, the authors concentrate more on the state power gradually hegemonizing lived-experience of the people. Gramscian notion of ‘passive revolution’ has been rather universal phenomenon in phases of state formation in many countries. Intensive social maneuver occurred during the early state entrenchment periods, and these led to ensuing development of institutions. The state institutions hegemonized the people’s lived-experiences, essentially through creation of the ‘competition fields’ theorized in this research. The competition fields comprised not only stratification of wealth but also cultural signification of certain population categories identity-wisely. Incentives for competition involvement were substantive while subalternized ‘others’ who resisted. With this intrinsic logic of the competition fields, ‘war of position’ encroached individuals’ livelihoods and has been reproduced by signification of the ‘symbol’ over time. The symbol essentially represents the desirable image that people ‘should’ pursue and it is sustained by feeding certain collective memories. In this context, the authors argue that the modern populist phenomenon is the politically intensified ‘war of position’ in contrast to Laclau’s proposition spotlighting democratic ‘war of maneuver’. The authors have conducted contents analysis on manifestoes of Rafael Correa, Narendra Modi, Myung-Bak Lee, Donald Trump, and Nicolás Maduro, with supplementary historical analyses on the ascending competition fields in each of the five cases. The novel framework calls for distinction of ‘hegemony-protagonist’ and ‘hegemony-antagonist’ politics and rethink common notions (e.g., Canovan 1999; Kaltwasser 2012) highlighting innateness of populist potential in liberal-democratic polities.