Cite as: Facundo Vega, ‘On Populist Illusion: The Leader, the People and the Impasses of Hegemony’, talk presented at the conference Materialism and Politics, ICI Berlin, 24–26 April 2019, video recording, mp4, 24:47 <>
24 – 26 Apr 2019

On Populist Illusion

The Leader, the People and the Impasses of Hegemony
By Facundo Vega

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:24:47
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Conference

Materialism and Politics

What is the relevance of materialism for thinking the political? Throughout modernity, materialism has been associated with fatalism, naturalism, heresy, and linked to radical ideas such as republicanism and democracy.

Despite never having claimed to be a materialist himself, Spinoza early on became associated with materialism, and the highly controversial, even condemned and censored central tenets of his philosophy came to be seen as evidence of a clandestinely held materialism, making Spinoza an emblem of the subversive alliance between materialism and democracy.

The revolutionary effects of eighteenth-century French materialism have been widely discussed since the French Revolution and throughout the nineteenth century. The works of Marx and Engels further aligned materialism with progressive politics, anchoring political liberation in concrete social practices. As materialist politics rejects the concept of the subject as a point of departure for social analysis, it draws onthe very materiality of social relationsin order to reflect on collective reality. If humankind is the product of socio-historical circumstances, the political task, for Marx, became one of inquiring into and transforming its environment.

The past decades have revived the attention given to materialism and its affiliation with a progressive agenda. At the same time, neoliberalism emerges and poses a challenge to the foundations of citizenship as it expands its control over the materiality of social reproduction, the materialities underlying the reproduction processes of capitalist domination. Neoliberalism actively shapes society and strengthens social logics of exclusion in order to create a growing number of ‘sub-citizens’ or even ‘non-citizens’ subjected to new and more aggressive forms of exploitation and dispossession. To what extent can materialism counteract this neoliberal turn, and what are the available resources for a renewal of radical materialism that can energize the contemporary progressive agenda?


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)


Chiara Bottici
Alex Demirović
Katja Diefenbach
Mariana Gainza
Ericka Itokazu
Cornelia Möser
Catherine Perret

Organized by

Bernardo Bianchi
Émilie Filion-Donat
Marlon Miguel
Ayse Yuva
An event of the Centre Marc Bloch in cooperation with the ICI Berlin, the FU Berlin, and the TU Berlin