Speaking for Nature: Hobbes, Latour, and the Democratic Representation of Nonhumans

  • Mark B. Brown California State University

Abstract

Environmental theorists have often considered how best to represent nature's interests. This essay develops an approach to the democratic representation of nonhuman nature by examining the relation between Bruno Latour’s account of representation and that of Thomas Hobbes. Both Hobbes and Latour develop a constructivist theory of representation as an ongoing process that partly constitutes what it represents. In this respect, Latour’s account complements the “constructivist turn” in recent democratic theory, and it suggests a promising avenue for representing nonhumans. However, Latour also follows Hobbes in viewing representation as a matter of unifying and replacing the represented. This aspect of Latour’s approach obscures certain key features of representative democracy in pluralist societies. The last part of the essay takes up an aspect of Hobbes’s theory neglected by Latour, the notion of “representation by fiction,” which suggests a way of representing nonhumans that offers more support for representative democracy than other approaches

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Mark B. Brown, California State University

Department of Government

References

Ankersmit FR (1996) Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy Beyond Fact and Value. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Brito Vieira M (2009) The Elements of Representation in Hobbes: Aesthetics, Theatre, Law, and Theology in the Construction of Hobbes's Theory of the State. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004181748.i-286

Brito Vieira M & Runciman D (2008) Representation. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Brown MB (2006) Citizen Panels and the Concept of Representation. Journal of Political Philosophy 14(2): 203–225.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9760.2006.00245.x

Brown MB (2009) Science in Democracy: Expertise, Institutions, and Representation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262013246.001.0001

Callon M & Latour B (1981) Unscrewing the Big Leviathan: How Actors Macro-Structure Reality and How Sociologists Help Them to Do So. In: Knorr-Cetina K (ed) Advances in Social Theory: Toward an Integration of Micro-and Macro-sociologies. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 277–303.

Disch L (2008) Representation as 'Spokespersonship': Bruno Latour's Political Theory. Parallax 14(3): 88–100.
https://doi.org/10.1080/13534640802159161

Disch L (2012) Democratic Representation and the Constituency Paradox. Perspectives on Politics 10(3): 599-616.
https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592712001636

Disch L (2015) The 'Constructivist Turn' in Democratic Representation: A Normative Dead End? Constellations 22(4): 487-499.
https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8675.12201

Dobson A (1996) Representative Democracy and the Environment. In: Lafferty W M & Meadowcroft J (eds) Democracy and the Environment: Problems and Prospects. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 124-139.

Dobson A (2010) Democracy and Nature: Speaking and Listening. Political Studies 58 (4): 752-768.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2010.00843.x

Dryzek JS (2000) Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Eckersley R (2000) Deliberative Democracy, Ecological Representation and Risk: Towards a Democracy of the Affected. In: Sward M (ed) Democratic Innovation: Deliberation, Representation and Association. London: Routledge, 117-132.

Eckersley R (2004) The Green State: Rethinking Democracy and Sovereignty. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Eckersley R (2010) Representing Nature. In: Alonso S, Keane J & Merkel W (eds) The Future of Representative Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 236-257.

Frost S (2008) Lessons from a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Goodin RE (1996) Enfranchising the Earth, and its Alternatives. Political Studies 44 (5): 835-849.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.1996.tb00337.x

Hobbes T (1991) Leviathan. Edited by Richard Tuck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jasanoff S, Markle GE, Petersen JC & Pinch T (eds) (1995) Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Krause S (2011) Bodies in action: Corporeal agency and democratic politics. Political Theory 39(3): 299-324.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0090591711400025

Latour B (1993) We Have Never Been Modern (trans. C Porter). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Latour B (1999) Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Latour B (2002) War of the Worlds: What about Peace? Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Latour B (2003) What if We Talked Politics a Little? Contemporary Political Theory 2(2): 143–164.
https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300092

Latour B (2004) Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy (trans. C Porter). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Latour B (2005a) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Latour, B (2005b) From realpolitik to dingpolitik, or how to make things public. In: Latour B & Weibel P (eds) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 14–41.

Latour B (2013) An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (trans. C Porter). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Latour B (2014) Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene. New Literary History 45(1): 1-18.
https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.2014.0003

Mansbridge JJ (2003) Rethinking Representation. American Political Science Review 97 (4): 515-528.
https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055403000856

Nordhaus T & Shellenberger M (2007) Break Through: Why We Can't Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

O'Neill J (2001) Representing People, Representing Nature, Representing the World. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 19(4): 483-500.
https://doi.org/10.1068/c12s

O'Neill J (2006) Who Speaks for Nature? In: Haila Y & Dyke C (eds) How Nature Speaks: The Dynamics of the Human Ecological Condition. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 261-277.
https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822387718-012

Parkinson J & Mansbridge J (eds) (2012) Deliberative Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pitkin HF (1967) The Concept of Representation. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Plotke D (1997) Representation Is Democracy. Constellations 4(1): 19–34.
https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8675.00033

Rehfeld A (2006) Towards a General Theory of Political Representation. Journal of Politics 68(1): 1–21.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00365.x

Rosanvallon P (2011) Democratic Legitimacy: Impartiality, Reflexivity, Proximity (trans. Arthur Goldhammer). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Runciman D (2000) What Kind of Person Is Hobbes's State? A Reply to Skinner. Journal of Political Philosophy 8(2): 268–278.
https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9760.00102

Runciman D (2009). Hobbes's Theory of Representation: Anti-Democratic or Proto-Democratic? In: Shapiro I, Stokes SC, Wood EJ & Kirshner AS (eds) Political Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 15-34.

Sarewitz D (2004) How Science Makes Environmental Controversies Worse. Environmental Science and Policy 7: 385-403.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2004.06.001

Saward M (2006) Representation. In: Dobson A & Eckersley R (eds) Political Theory and the Ecological Challenge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 183–199.

Saward M (2010) The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199579389.001.0001

Sayes E (2014) Actor-Network Theory and Methodology: Just What Does It Mean to Say That Nonhumans Have Agency? Social Studies of Science 44(1): 134-149.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312713511867

Shapin S & Schaffer S (1985) Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Skinner Q (1999) Hobbes and the Purely Artificial Person of the State. Journal of Political Philosophy 7(1): 1–29.
https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9760.00063

Skinner Q (2005) Hobbes on Representation. European Journal of Philosophy 13(2): 155–184.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0966-8373.2005.00226.x

Urbinati N (2006) Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226842806.001.0001

Urbinati N & Warren ME (2008) The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory. Annual Review of Political Science 11: 387–412.
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053006.190533

Whiteside KH (2012) A Representative Politics of nature? Bruno Latour on Collectives and Constitutions. Contemporary Political Theory 12(3): 185-2005.
https://doi.org/10.1057/cpt.2012.24

Whiteside KH (2013) The Impasses of Ecological Representation. Environmental Values 22: 339-358.
https://doi.org/10.3197/096327113X13648087563700

Young IM (2000) Inclusion and Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press
Published
2018-02-15
Section
Research Papers