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Politics on the Edges of Liberalism

Difference, Populism, Revolution, Agitation

Benjamin Arditi

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This innovative exploration of ways of thinking about and doing politics presents a challenge to liberal assumptions. The author tackles four key areas in contemporary politics which work at 'the edges of liberalism': difference, populism, revolution and agitation. Each of these phenomena is selected on the basis that they push the envelope of liberalism or seek to go against and beyond it.

Each chapter takes on one of these ideas, discussing the intellectual background and considering its position in relation to liberalism. Difference is explored in the context of the politics of the culture wars and its celebration of particularism over universalism. Populism is seen as a spectre of liberal democracy, able to both accompany it and haunt it. Agitation is considered in tandem with emancipatory politics and in relation to revolutionary politics. The final chapter aims to vindicate the use of revolution for contemporary thought, challenging the existing liberal-democratic consensus.

The argument is interspersed with many examples drawn from history and contemporary politics to illustrate the author's claims. Arditi's engagement with the main thinkers in the field leads him to develop a novel interpretation of contemporary politics.

Key Features

  • Provides a novel theory of populism
  • Presents a new concept of revolution
  • Considers a different way of thinking about emancipation
  • Clarity of argument ensures accessibility to a broad readership


Introduction: the Edges as an Internal Periphary
1. The Underside of Difference and the Limits of Particularism
2. Populism as a Spectre of Democracy
3. Populism as an Internal Periphery of Democratic Politics
4. Stirred and Shaken. From 'the Art of the Possible' to Emancipatory Politics
5. Talkin' 'bout a Revolution: the End of Mourning

About the Author

Benjamin Arditi is a Professor of Political Theory at the National University of Mexico. He is the author of Polemicization (EUP, 1999) and editor of Fidelity to the Disagreement: Jacques Ranciere and Politics (2006). He is co-editor (with Jeremy Valentine) of Edinburgh University Press’s ‘Taking on the Political’ series.


A very welcome addition to the field of post-structuralist political theory... Arditi’s take on populism is outstanding, and perhaps represents the most sophisticated conceptualisation of this difficult topic in the literature to date... What is most exciting about this book overall is how successfully it marries sharp theoretical insight with conceptual tools for real-life political activism. In this sense, it is a brilliant example of that good oldfashioned Marxist term, praxis. Written clearly, concisely and with a particularly deft touch, it is highly recommended to political theorists and activists alike.

- Benjamin Moffitt, University of Sydney, Political Studies Review
Arditi's work is an admirable and worthwhile addition to the theory of the liberal-democracy and its 'edges'.
- J. Maggio, University of Florida, Theory & Event