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