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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 7, 2015

Symbolic representation and the paradox of responsive performativity

Jan Bíba
From the journal Human Affairs


The paper deals with the paradox of the incommensurability of the demands of responsiveness and performativity in representative democracy. To solve this puzzle, the paper first analyzes Pitkin’s concept of symbolic representation. Pitkin sees symbolic representation as a caricature of democracy because of its performativity, non-rationality and vagueness. The paper argues that these are indeed the key characteristics of every single representative act and that their presence does not make representation undemocratic. Using the work of Claude Lefort, the second part of the paper attempts to set out the conditions that would enable us to differentiate between the performativity of representation appropriate in a democratic society and the sheer falsification of the popular will. The paper claims that such a distinction would demand that we extend our understanding of representation to go beyond the relation between the representative and the represented and focus instead on the contestability of governmental claims to represent


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Published Online: 2015-4-7
Published in Print: 2015-4-1

© Institute for Research in Social Communication, Slovak Academy of Sciences