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Keywords:

  • rhetoric;
  • ideologies;
  • Laclau;
  • Freeden;
  • political argumentation

The political theory of ideologies proposes a distinct way of conceiving of and analysing political thought, especially as it appears ‘in the wild’. Exploring the claim that there is a form or mode of thinking specific and proper to politics, and that it is the concern of the political theory of ideology, the article examines two of the leading contemporary approaches in this field: the morphological analysis of Michael Freeden and the discourse analysis associated with Ernesto Laclau. In showing how each produces a distinct object for theoretical analysis (respectively, ‘the concept’ and ‘the signifier’) the case is made for constituting a third object – the political argument – the apprehension of which requires the integration of aspects of the rhetorical tradition into the political theory of ideologies. The conclusion briefly outlines some of the possible implications, for political theory and analysis more generally, of the rhetorical conception of political thought and ideology.