The social magic of political representation
Institute for Social Sciences Humboldt-University Berlin Berlin, Germany
There is a social magic inherent in all forms of political representation. Drawing from a sample of interviews with nationally based civil society interest groups who represent their constituents towards the European governance arrangement, the paper argues that representativity is achieved through rhetorical strategies of representative claims-making. The theoretical background is adapted from the concept of group charisma and group disgrace, developed by Norbert Elias. Representative claims-making by civil society interest groups can be analysed as a specific form of moral communication, because they ascribe charisma on themselves and disgrace on others. Communication thus structures the political field. Within the political field, interest groups weigh their own social power as a reassessment of their representativity and position themselves vis-á-vis others. The EU devotes attention to un-elected political actors and invites especially civil society actors into decision-making procedures to raise legitimacy, to incorporate expertise and to link EU policies back to citizens. My suggestion to analyse the EU's representative system with a sociological perspective is to look at the ascriptions of praise and blame by civil society organizations. With their representative claims they request leadership (for themselves and/or for others) and construct notions of responsibility. Their participation in governance arrangements slowly establishes new routines for political representation and allows to turn governance back into government. The paper presents results from a PhD in the project: "Building the EU´s Social Constituency: Exploring the Dynamics of Public Claims-Making and Collective Representation in Europe" at Humboldt University Berlin.