Democracy and the Symbolic Constitution of Society

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Building on Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms, this paper argues that the continuities and discontinuities characterizing the passage from medieval politics to modern democracy can best be understood by reference to political power's symbolic structure. For the one, political power, whether theocratic or democratic, always mediates an absolute power; as mediation, political power enacts the twofold movement which Cassirer has identified as characteristic of all human symbolization: a distancing of, and approximation to, reality. For the other, democracy institutionalizes a category distinction between meaning and being, making of political unity a functional, rather than substantial, unity.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Tilburg University, Faculty of Philosophy, Postbus 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 1, 1998

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