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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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Two regimes of the symbolic: radical democracy between Romanticism and structuralism

Two regimes of the symbolic: radical democracy between Romanticism and structuralism

Chapter:
(p.77) 5 Two regimes of the symbolic: radical democracy between Romanticism and structuralism
Source:
The Constructivist Turn in Political Representation
Author(s):

Warren Breckman

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442602.003.0005

The ‘symbolic’ has found its way into the heart of contemporary radical democratic theory. When one encounters this term in major theorists such as Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Žižek, our first impulse is to trace its genealogy to the offspring of the linguistic turn, structuralism and poststructuralism. This paper seeks to expose the deeper history of the symbolic in the legacy of Romanticism. It argues that crucial to the concept of the symbolic is a polyvalence that was first theorized in German Romanticism. The linguistic turn that so marked the twentieth century tended to suppress this polyvalence, but it has returned as a crucial dimension of contemporary radical political theory and practice. At stake is more than a recovery of historical depth. Through a constructed dialogue between Romanticism and the thought of both Žižek and Laclau, the paper seeks to provide a sharper appreciation of the resources of the concept of the symbolic.

Keywords:   The symbolic, Slavoj Žižek, Ernesto Laclau, Linguistic turn, German romanticism, Radical democracy

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