Obstacles and Distortions: A Speculative Approach to Ideology

Glyn Daly

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Building on Hegel’s speculative philosophy, this paper seeks to critically engage with Ernesto Laclau’s highly influential theory of ideology. Three central points of contention are developed. First, while Laclau’s view of the ideological distortion as a distortion of a lack is well taken the paper affirms that in order to sustain itself this distortion becomes a paradoxical two, or in Hegelian terms an oppositional unity. In other words, the distortive illusion of fullness (the concealment of basic lack) only becomes operational via a reciprocal supplementary distortive illusion of an external obstacle to that fullness – the illusion of fullness is thus sustained by its opposite.
Second, in contrast to Laclau’s view of the extra-discursive as a distant imaginary it is argued that the existing capitalist power structure functions effectively as its own extra-discursive in a far more immediate and direct sense in the organization of reality. Third, the real problem of ideology is not simply that (extra-discursive) closure is absent and has to be imposed but rather that the very proximity of closure generates unbearable tensions and antagonisms that need to be externalized and re-staged in more manageable ways. Drawing on a range of examples, the paper aims to synthesize an alternative speculative approach to ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-101
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Political Ideologies
Issue number1
Early online date20 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023


  • Hegel
  • Laclau
  • Democracy
  • Lyotard
  • Habermas
  • Speculative
  • Ideology
  • Distortion
  • Belief
  • Extra-discursiven
  • Unconscious
  • Antagonism
  • Illusion
  • Populism
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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