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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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The constructivist paradox: contemporary protest movements and (their) representation

The constructivist paradox: contemporary protest movements and (their) representation

(p.239) 14 The constructivist paradox: contemporary protest movements and (their) representation
The Constructivist Turn in Political Representation

Mathijs van de Sande

Edinburgh University Press

The recent global wave of protest movements is often characterized with reference to a ‘prefigurative politics’ and not without reason closely associated with a critique of representative democracy and its institutions. Chantal Mouffe has recently argued that the refusal by such movements to engage with representative institutions evinces a fundamental neglect of the ‘radical negativity’ that inheres in politics – and thus amounts to a fundamental misconception of politics itself. This chapter argues that Mouffe frames her verdict in terms and categories that are significantly at odds with those of these protest movements themselves. By failing to take into account their own understanding of either ‘success’ or ‘politics,’ she implicitly assumes a standpoint outside of – and thus flatly unaffected by – these movements’ interventions in a discursive reality. Mouffe takes up a position in analyzing these movements that seems immune to the constructivist turn that she herself has helped to theorize. This chapter poses this paradox and asks how political theorists are to deal with it. How to remain receptive to movement critiques of political representation without dismissing the insights of constructivist representation theory? And how to appreciate the representative functions that these movements did effectively fulfill?

Keywords:   Chantal Mouffe, Constructivist paradox, Protest movements, Prefigurative politics

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