Sovereignty and Symbolization

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Abstract. The traditional definition of sovereignty as "the highest power within a political community" conceals the pattern of representation characteristic of political rationality: investing power in political actors within a community requires removing sovereignty to a point beyond that community whence the exercise of power can be conditioned or limited. This double movement of investiture and divestiture reveals that political power mediates absence and presence, transcedence and immanence, generality and particularity. Mediation is not a specifically political phenomenon; according to Ernst Cassirer, it defines the symbolic relation human beings entertain with reality. Building on Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms, this paper examines how symbolization sheds light on the concept of power and justifies sovereignty as a necessary political category.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-371
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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