The Silent Partner in Political Representation’s Constructivist Turn
This chapter examines the contribution of radical democratic theory to what Nadia Urbinati has called the “democratic rediscovery of representation.” It focuses on constructivist approaches within this broader scholarship. It characterizes the “constructivist turn” as implying a performative, rather than a merely reflective and vicarious understanding of the act of representing in politics. It insists that the “rediscovery” of representation as contributing to the formation of the political subjectivity of the represented should not simply be seen as a way of integrating representative government within consent-driven processes of opinion formation and democratic deliberation, but as part of the more agonistic battle for political hegemony. The chapter traces the lineage of the “constructivist turn” to Laclau’s and Mouffe’s (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. It argues that their contribution to the rediscovery of representation is particularly significant for those who want to exploit the potential of new theorizations of representation to give voice to the excluded because their radical pluralism shifts the normative orientation of the field.
Keywords: constructivist turn, Laclau and Mouffe, political practice