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Working for authority: practices of representation and the making of collective orders

Policy Analysis
Political Theory
Public Policy
Jan-Peter Voß
Technische Universität Berlin
Jan-Peter Voß
Technische Universität Berlin

Abstract

The paper discusses “practices of representation” as an analytical entry point for a relational sociology of governance. It outlines a generic concept of power as “performative representation” which is inspired by science and technology studies (STS), actor-network theory (ANT) and (neo-)pragmatist sociology and which builds on a translation of the concept of “performativity”, as developed in studies of scientific practices, also for political practices: While science produces representations of objective reality and the conditions that it imposes, politics produces representations of collective subjects and their interests. Both practices perform a larger whole that transcends the individual human being and, if felicitous, can prompt allegiance and mobilise collective action. I argue that studying practices of representation provides a fruitful approach to trace “governance in the making”. It takes us to the work that is done to achieve authority, both epistemic and political (and perhaps other forms as well), and to make it work for the shaping of collective orders. The paper is mainly conceptual, but main points are illustrated with reference to global sustainability governance and specific challenges, also methodologically, in studying governance beyond the state and at the intersection of science and politics.