Marx in Kansas: A Hegemonic Diagnosis of Conservatism's Contradictions
Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas identifies some of the more incoherent aspects of American political conservatism, which continues to cause puzzlement among thinkers on the Left. I argue that Frank and others on the Left are attempting to understand a complex movement in terms of a simplistic version of Marxism. I explicate a contemporary alternative to orthodox Marxism: the Postmarxism of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the centerpiece of which is their theory of hegemony. I demonstrate the explanatory value of their theory by means of two applications: first, I describe Stuart Hall's hegemonic analysis of Thatcherism in Great Britain; and second, I apply the theory to American conservatism--both to the phenomena that Frank describes, and to the recent health care debates.