The Trace of Political Representation

By Brian Seitz

Subjects: Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Radical Social and Political Theory
Paperback : 9780791423660, 232 pages, May 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423653, 232 pages, May 1995

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Table of contents



Introduction: The Position of Political Representation

PART ONE Archaeological Fragments of Political Representation

Chapter I. Introducing the Metaphysics of Substitution

Examples and specifics.

The one and the many problems.

Chapter II. Representing England Twice

From the general to the specific.

The community of representation in medieval England

The force of representation.

"The politicians of metaphysics . . . "(and virtual representation)

Chapter III. Common Sense and the Constitution of Representation

Actually in America.

Powering discourse, locking in to consent.

Mixing representation: a house divided.

Representation distributed.

PART TWO Putting Some Pieces Together (and Taking Them Apart Again)

Chapter IV. Achieving Ends: The Service of Representation

Getting lost in translation.

The legitimation and rationalization of formations of power, and discourse.

Instrumenting representation.

Chapter V. Counting Images of the Political Subject

Driving forces.

Hierarchies of difference: return of the One and the many.

What counts.

Chapter VI. Assuming Positions: Representative Democracy and Warfare

State of war.

Informing the subject.

The war room: affirming conflict.




A philosophical analysis of the discourses, practices, and effects of representation in political institutions, focusing on American democracy.


The Trace of Political Representation is a philosophical analysis of the discourses, practices, and effects of representation in political institutions, with an ultimate interest in contemporary American democracy. The perspective governing its approach is derived largely from Foucault, and tempered by a range of contemporary philosophers, including Derrida, Pitkin, and Castoriadis.

Seitz explores and questions the traditional, metaphysical notion that what gets represented in the apparatuses and processes of representation is a political subject or identity (for example, will, opinion, interests) that exists fundamentally independent of and prior to that process. To accomplish this, he sketches out a historical articulation of several prominent formations of political representation from the past and then focuses on more contemporary political developments and dynamics, including the impact of "communications" technology and culture on the processes and institutions of representation.

Brian Seitz teaches in the philosophy department at Queens College in Flushing, New York. He is the coeditor of Eating Culture, the first in a series of cultural-studies anthologies, and is currently working on a book that examines the philosophical opposition between force and law.


"Seitz's book is a very fine example of a genre that we can expect to see gaining ascendancy in the next few years—a kind of genealogy of certain key political concepts, in this case 'representation. ' As such, this work is at the cutting edge of a kind of politico-philosophical work that has its inspiration in Foucault, but is sustained by independent research. " — Robert Bernasconi, University of Memphis