Geras , N (1988) 'Ex - Marxism Without Substance...', in New Left Review, 169: 34 - 62.
[The main points of his critique and a reply from Laclau and Mouffe are summarised very well on page 35].
Laclau and Mouffe have offered a 'politician's reply' rather than a direct one. They are still bandying about definitions rather than specifying exactly what the mechanisms of bourgeois hegemony are, what are the effects of economic, political and social factors.
If the point is to pursue the trajectory established by Marx in order to think out new complexities, why is this not a triumph for marxism? Why a post marxism?
Laclau and Mouffe have not replied to questions about the dilemmas in hegemonic articulation [repeated, slightly better, page 50]. They are still silent about how to justify preferring one set of politics over others. They offer only a very abstract discussion of human capacities, a mere 'discourse about discourse' (51) [this always happens if you take on philosophers -- they only reply with more philosophy]. Mere antagonisms can be demonstrated easily enough, but why should some be preferred and elevated to the status of progressive politics? The reply to this question is 'a theory about discourses... [L and M are]... effectively speechless, unable to construct [a reply]' (52). They find themselves unable to speak because they are afraid of essentialism -- but all theoretical concepts are both essentialist and reductionist [I see what Geras means -- but some are more open to challenge than others?]. Why should the term 'discourse' be less of an essence? (52).
Objects that exist do have properties.
If subjects are only constituted in discourse, what produces the possibility of discourse?
'Arbitrariness and rationalism' are not democratic just because they seem to resist authoritarianism. Laclau and Mouffe are authoritarian in insisting that only their discursive approach is the right one (59).All other discourses and political positions are relative, but not theirs.
'Intellectuals can [be] ready to explain the behaviours of the whole world, but not... their own situation... as though they alone were beyond the pull of motives' (60). [Should be inscribed on the threshold of all social theory departments].