Representation as Social Relation In Praise of Georg Simmel on the Centenary of the Publication of his Essay The Stranger
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University of Warsaw
Publication date: 2010-10-06
Polish Sociological Review 2010;171(3):305–318
This article is inspired by Georg Simmel’s formal sociology and written in his characteristic essay style. The article is about the representation relation viewed as a form of social interaction. Contrary to approaches which are dominant in the literature, the author argues that representation is a trilateral relation: the representative always represents the representee before an audience, even if this audience is not always easy to define. The same, paradoxically, can be said about the representee. In its pure forms, the object of representation may be the very presence of the representee, the representee’s will or his/her interest and mutual expectations among the three parties will vary depending on what is being represented. Many representation relations only become such relations ex post; they are initiated not in the act of authorization but in the act of usurpation which is legalized and institutionalized not only by the representee but also by the audience. For this reason, the difference between representation and usurpation is often fluid and fuzzy. The representation relation, as it is understood in this article, is one of the main forms of social interaction because thanks to this relation people who cannot appear personally in the public sphere for various reasons can nevertheless make an appearance.