Re-articulating Dissent: Representing the Working Class from Third Way to New Right in Britain and Chile


  • We would like to thank Andrew Robinson and the Political Ethnography Group: Deirdre Duffy, Jennifer Martinez, Loreto Maria Urbina Montana, Philip Roberts and Heather Watkins, for their insightful comments and suggestions which helped to improve the rigour and consistency of the article. We would also like to thank participants in the CSSGJ seminar of September 2010 in which we presented an earlier version of this article for their comments, questions and suggestions. Finally, we would like to thank the four anonymous referees for their insightful, engaged and supportive suggestions for revisions which helped us to improve the rigour, consistency and coherence of the piece.


This article takes the 2010 electoral defeats of the Chilean Concertación and British New Labour governments as a point of departure to analyse the crisis of representation in Third Way politics and how this crisis has allowed the right to articulate a successful project of subaltern dissent. The article develops a critical reading of Gramsci through an engagement with Spivak to analyse the complex and contested relations of representation through which subaltern subjectivities are constituted politically. In applying this critical deconstruction to Britain and Chile we discuss the ways in which the Third Way discursively, materially and institutionally acted to re-present a demobilised working-class subject as part of a model of a consensual (elite-led) and de-antagonised politics. We argue that this depoliticisation and demobilisation of popular activity has served to disembed Third Way parties from their core constituencies in civil society, allowing room for the political right to re-articulate subaltern dissent. We thus analyse how the right has sought to articulate subaltern good sense in terms of (1) nostalgia, (2) anti-politics and (3) disciplinality. We conclude by suggesting some of the potential tensions and contradictions involved in this re-articulation of dissent, particularly in the re-emergence of popular mobilisation in both the UK and Chile.