Authority, representation, and the contradictions of posttraditional governing

Thomas J. Catlaw

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Scopus citations


    The social, economic, and political transformations of the last 30 years have ushered in a "posttraditional" order in which the institutions and practices of the past are no longer authoritative guides for action and thought. Human experience increasingly is conceived as something to be constructed and decided on without reliance on the authority of tradition. This essay argues that these transformations pose grave challenges to the mechanisms of political representation and administrative legitimacy because they frustrate the coherent production of both recognition of a "We the People" and the conditions for human subjectivity. In doing so, the efficacy of the conventional mechanisms of governmental authority is eroded. An alternative model of administrative practice is outlined that rests on a nonrepresentational mode of authority and a reconceptualization of democracy.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)261-287
    Number of pages27
    JournalAmerican Review of Public Administration
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2006


    • Jacques Lacan
    • Legitimacy
    • Midwife
    • The People

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Public Administration
    • Marketing


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