Revisiting The Concept of Representation
In Hannah Pitkin's influential book, The Concept of Representation (1967), the case is made that, despite its undoubted complexity, representation means something; that it is possible to establish when representation has taken place and, conversely, when it has not. Representation, as a central practice of modern politics, has objective content. Though it will often be imperfect, it is possible to be fairly and accurately represented politically. Yet it is argued here that such confidence in representation is less obviously convincing today, and for a particular reason. This is that, over the last thirty years, the subject of representation, which Pitkin more or less takes for granted, has itself become a site of controversy. The question that needs to be asked now is: how far do developments in the theory of the subject undermine faith in the possibility of representation?