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The concept of political representation from Hobbes to Marx

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:21 authored by Georgios Daremas
The object of this thesis is the examination of the concept of political representation in the corpus of Hobbes, Locke, Hegel and Marx. Through the method of textualreconstruction I foreground the concept’s salience in their writings. Political representation constitutes a unitary political society as the basis of representative government by entrusting to a separate part of the political community the exercise of the legislative and executive functions on behalf of the political society. Hobbes’s author-actor model grounded the concept of political representation by introducing the act of the transfer of will to a representative by authorisation. Thereby he established the problematic relationship of permanently alienated, absolute, representative power acting in the name of the political community. Locke conceptualised political representation in a way that restored to political society the power to determine the legitimacy of its representative government in case the latter transgressed the norm of acting for the public good of society. Hegel, in turn, assigned to political representation the crucial function of integrating civil society into the power system of the state thus securing the identity of subjective and objective freedom in the rational state, though political representation bestows only formal freedom to civil society’s involvement in the affairs of the state. For Marx, the relationship of political representation makes the representative polity appear as a democratically governed political society within which individual freedom and the public good are secured. This is vitiated by the rift between political society/state and civil society. Marx censures liberal and republican theory for ignoring the primacy of civil/bourgeois society over the representative political society. As a consequence,he argues,the representative polity is not a form of self-government but other-determined and neither freedom nor the public good are realised. Instead, under the regime of private property, money assumes the authorial function of organising social exchange and human relations, shaping the representative polity after its own image, and thus it renders democracy as popular sovereignty a lie.


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