Self-Presentation and Representative Politics

Self-Presentation and Representative Politics

Essays in Context, 1960-2020

By Derek Robbins

The book presents six articles written at intervals of about a decade between 1960 and 2020, all of which relate to the problem of representative politics. The articles are contextualised historically to document a developing presentation of self on the part of the author while also raising questions about the changing nature of political representation.

Hardback, 176 Pages


January 2022

£80.00, $125.00

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About This Book

The book has an introduction outlining the conceptual framework that gives meaning to the six collected texts that follow. This framework derives from the work of Pierre Bourdieu. He stated that ‘everything is social,’ which means that all discourses have to be understood in their own terms (as ‘structured structures’) and in relation to the social conditions in which they developed (‘structuring structures’). As social individuals we are constrained by the structures defining our situation but we also have the capacity to alter those structures. With particular reference to the ‘field’ of politics, the Introduction considers theoretically the nature of the ‘presentation of self’ (Goffman) of citizens and the nature of parliamentary democracy as ‘presentation’ or ‘representation’ (as discussed in Habermas: The structural transformation of the public sphere).

The six main chapters reproduce texts written or spoken about politics at intervals in the period from 1960 until 2020. Brief introductions to each chapter will contextualise these texts both in terms of their significance in my developing awareness of political discourse and also in terms of the historically changing nature of the field of politics itself in the United Kingdom. Having an a-political upbringing, the author suggests that he gradually acquired a political competence but, equally, developed the view that the domination of political discourse has become exclusive and that there is now a need to reassert social relations in society and to recognize the extent to which political activity sustains the social control of a privileged minority.

The book has an Epilogue which considers some recent arguments about ‘populism’ and also reflects on the extent to which the ‘new normal’ heralded by some for a post-Covid future has the capacity to circumscribe the influence of politics. The author reflects on whether deployment of Bourdieu’s concept of ‘symbolic violence’ - the process by which the attitudes of the few are imposed on the many – might lead to the possible resurgence of social movements which are sceptical about political power. The author suggests that there may be a need for a new ‘quietism’ as advanced by Fénelon in the court of Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century and as considered by Richard Rorty in “Naturalism and quietism” in Philosophy as Cultural Politics, 2007. 


Self-Presentation and Representative Politics sketches out a tantalising and ambitious rethinking of the current state of politics which links the papers and is an extremely valuable contribution in its own right. The book promises to be a valuable addition to the literature and might indeed reach beyond a merely academic readership.’— William Outhwaite, Emeritus Professor, Newcastle University, UK

Author Information

Derek Robbins is Emeritus Professor of International Social Theory at the University of East London.


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Table of Contents

Sources; Notes on Text; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Mr. Benn or Lord Stansgate? An Investigation of the Bristol South-East By-Election, May 4, 1961, and Its Consequences [1962], A. The Background, B. The Text; 2. 1795: The Political Lectures [1972], A. The Background, B. The Text; 3. Reflections on Citizenship and Nationhood from Brubaker’s Account on France and Germany [1993], A. The Background, B. The Text; 4. Burke and Bristol Revisited [1999], A. The Background, B. The Text; 5. From Solidarity to Social Inclusion: The Political Transformations of Durkheimianism [2008], A. The Background, B. The Text; 6. Bourdieu and the Field of Politics [2018], A. The Background, B. The Text; Postscript; References; Index.


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