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The Constructivist Turn in Political Representation$
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Lisa Disch, Mathijs van de Sande, and Nadia Urbinati

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474442602

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442602.001.0001

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Power without representation is blind, representations without power are empty

Power without representation is blind, representations without power are empty

(p.65) 4 Power without representation is blind, representations without power are empty
The Constructivist Turn in Political Representation

Bernard Flynn

Edinburgh University Press

In the modern period, power can be exercised only insofar as it is represented. This chapter develops this argument by a reading of Claude Lefort's interpretation of Machiavelli’s account of the metamorphosis by which natural force is transformed into political power: its being no longer located in the body(s) of the prince but rather in a symbolic register that is not reducible to real social processes. Michel Foucault has refused this "symbolic turn" and attached himself to an older tradition that equates desymbolization with secularization. Foucault pursues his analysis in accord with a tradition of "realism” that would unmask the representations of power, both juridical and symbolic, as occulting the true operation of power on the level of the real. His analysis maps grids of power and the resistances that they engender. He views power as being exercised directly on the body, without need of representation. His radical antinomianism has led him to very questionable judgments in concrete historical situations. This chapter argues that Foucault' de-symbolization has, as is the case with Marx, issued in a denegation of the political as such, a move that one would be ill advised to follow.

Keywords:   Michel Foucault, Claude Lefort, Symbolic turn, Realism

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