Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe

Last updated, 22 Aug 2014


Overview on Laclau and Mouffe in CMS

By Todd Bridgman

The discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe, most commonly associated with Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985), but developed further in later works, is based on a social ontology that distinguishes it from other forms of discourse approaches that have made an impact within management and organization studies, such as Foucauldian analysis and critical discourse analysis, which is based on a critical realist ontology. Laclau and Mouffe regard all objects and practices are discursively constituted and therefore meaningful.  This is not an idealist claim that extra-discursive reality does not exist, but rather it dissolves the distinction between being (ontology) and knowledge (epistemology) by claiming that while objects have an existence external to discourse, our knowledge, or understanding of them, depends on the structuring of a discursive field. From this perspective, attention is focused on the ways in which the material and the social are articulated within discourses that establish relations between them.

Laclau and Mouffe assume the radical contingency of all objects and identities, which draws our attention towards the operation of hegemonic discourses.  While these projects offer a partial fixation of meaning, they are penetrated by a radical contingency that prevents closure or totalisation, since they rely on discursive exteriors that partially constitute and therefore potentially subvert them. This ‘undecidability’ of the structure becomes evident in moments of dislocation, which induces an identity crisis for the subject and ‘compels’ the subject to act in order to restore or affirm a recognisable sense of identity through identification with discourses.  This insight that identities and practices are ultimately contingent facilitates an analysis of the ways in which subjects can resist the totalising efforts of hegemonic discourses.


Works within CMS drawing on Laclau and Mouffe (feel free to add more references):

Böhm, S. (2006) Repositioning organization theory: Impossibilities and strategies. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.

Bridgman, T., and Willmott, H. (2006). ‘Institutions and Technology: Frameworks for Understanding Organizational Change -The Case of a Major IT Outsourcing Contract’. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 42/1: 110-126.

Contu, A. (2002). ‘A Political Answer to Questions of Struggles’. Ephemera,  2/2: 160-174 

Contu, A. and Willmott, H. (2005). ‘You Spin Me Round: The Realist Turn in Organization and Management Studies’. Journal of Management Studies, 42/8: 1645-1662.

Contu, Alessia and Hugh Willmott (2003). ‘Re-embedding situatedness: The importance of power relations in learning theory,’Organization Science, 14(3): 283-96

Holmer-Nadesan, M. (1996). ‘Organizational Identity and Space of Action’. Organization Studies, 17/1: 49-82.

Spicer, A. and Böhm, B. (2007) 'Moving Management: Theorizing Struggles Against the Hegemony of Management', Organization Studies 28(11): 1667-1698.

Willmott,, H. (2005). ‘Theorising Contemporary Control: Some Poststructuralist Responses to Some Critical Realists’, Organization: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Organization, Theory, and Society, 12/5: 747-780.


Events related to Laclau and Mouffe (feel free to add more events you are aware of)

Laclau and Mouffe in Organization Studies (Warwick University, 19th June 2006)

Laclau and Mouffe in Organization Studies 2 (Leicester University, 21st September 2006)