‘Contingency, Hegemony, Universality: Contemporary Dialogues on the Left’ by Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau & Slavoj Žižek

Published by Verso in 2000.

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What is the contemporary legacy of Gramsci’s notion of Hegemony? How can universality be reformulated now that its spurious versions have been so thoroughly criticized?

In this unusual, but ground-breaking project, Judith Butler, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek engaged in a dialogue on central questions of contemporary philosophy and politics. Their essays, organized as separate contributions that respond to one another, range over the Hegelian legacy in contemporary critical theory, the theoretical dilemmas of multiculturalism, the universalism-versus-particularism debate, the strategies of the Left in a globalized economy, and the relative merits of post-structuralism and Lacanian psychoanalysis for a critical social theory.

While the rigor and intelligence with which these writers approach their work is formidable, Contingency, Hegemony, Universality benefits additionally from their clear sense of energy and enjoyment in a revealing and often unpredictable exchange.


Judith Butler is an American theoretician and philosopher who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy and ethics. She is currently a professor in the Rhetoric and Comparative Literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ernesto Laclau was an Argentine political theorist often described as post-Marxist. He was a professor at the University of Essex where he held a chair in Political Theory and was for many years director of the doctoral Programme in Ideology and Discourse Analysis. He has lectured extensively in many universities in North America, South America, Western Europe, Australia, and South Africa.

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovene sociologist, philosopher, and cultural critic.

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