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Democracy's Inner Voice
Political Style as Unintended Consequence
of Political Action
In any given case political style might be unimportant or dangerous, bul obviously it can' t
be both. Robert Hariman, Polilical Style (1995)
The innere Stimme in Music and Politics
In Robert Schumann's HlIIlloreske (\838) we encounter one of the most
remarkabl e passages in the history of musi c. The historian of music Charles
Rosen, in hi s brilli ant The Romantic Generatioll ( 1996), wrote the following
about t hi s passage: ' there are three staves: t he uppermost for t he right hand:
the lowest for the left, the middle, whi ch contains the melody, is not to be
played' . Hence, the pianist plays with ri ght and left hands the accompa-
niment of a melody that is clearly and unambiguously suggested by the score
and which the li stener will also hear, while at t he same time, the score expli-
citl y forbids the piani st to play this melody. The melody is here, as Schu-
rnann indicates hi msel f in t he score, an inHere Stimme, an inner voice, which
t he listener, wit hout being aware of it, will furni sh himself. Put differently,
the melody, also for Schumann the heart of the composition, will be listened
10 by the listener, without actually being heard by him. Hence, what one
li stens to, according to Rosen, ' is the echo of an unperformed melody, the
accompaniment of a song. The middle part is marked innere Stimme, and it
is both interior and inward, a double sense calculated by the composer: a
voice between soprano and bass, it is also an inner voice that is never exteri-
orised. It has its being within the mi nd and its exist ence only through its
echo' (Rosen, 1996: 7).
Certainl y, precedents can be found in polyphony for thi s paradox of
inaudibl e music; indeed, for the more subtl e composers in polyphony this
was a musical trope as obvious as it was popular. We ca n think of the reall y
· ... 11.l1kllll,: II'q', 1111111, ' 1111,1111111' 1III Idl · ... 1 kl'llIl ,dllllll 11t .lt , ill 1111 1111I1 -. l l d 1111'
.\' /Jul \llId /)Olllll'! III II 't dl,'('/1 ! ' I" .\/ !JII '// IIII/'II' II I H,IIII ',. \/ A/'I/!JI 'I I ' \
Ih.\.\ /(}I/ . TIll'   lladilinll, on till' nllwr h :lnd , wn h It... \"lqdLI ... I ... PII
lr:lIl sp:lITIl CY :Ind lhl' unamhiguous, forhade thi s IXlradllx :lnd t hl'll' luH' It",
theory of music leFt no room For it. It was only Romantici sm that npt'ratio-
nali scd and eagerl y exploited all the possibilities of making sil ence audible
and of transforming into music what was not yet music.
Now, we may ask ourselves, is this ilmere Stiml1le a reality or a mere illu-
sion, if we, as we have seen, did listen to it, but could not possibly actually
have heard it? Probably the answer to this question will depend on what
::me's musical affinities happen to be. Whoever is used to classic;]1 music wi ll
undoubtedly prefer to see Schumann 's invent ion as an illusion, :1S mere musical
rhetoric: \ve were deliberately and artfull y deceived, for we believed to have
:leard what "ve could not possi bly have heard. Schumann achieved this
nvention by means of a reality effect, an effet de reeL in the terminology of
Roland Barthes, offending a healthy and recommendable sense of what
'eality is. And t hi s certainly is how one could look at the matter.
But the romant icist will not be at a loss when confronted wit h this argu.
llent, pointing out that thi s melody that was li stened to but could not be
leard can be identifi ed with just as much precision as what we actuall y did
lear. There is an amount of quasi-mathematical precision in music e nsuring
hat the iI/Here Stillll1le is completely and unambiguously fixed by what we
:ould or did hear. And, the romantici st conti nues, if we customarily associ-
Ite reality with what can objectively be establi shed, whereas fiction indeed
)ermits us to leave thi s objective reality, then we should situate Schumann 's
111lere Still/me in the domain of reality rather than in that of fiction and
Ilusioll. And that would also justify the amazing inference th;]t what is not
_here, can nevertheless he part of reality.
But what has all this to do with politics? The main poi nt of my argument
"ill be th:)t if we want to give content to t he notion of 'poli ti cal reality', and
o define what we should see as slIch, the paradox of Schumann' s melody
hat can be li stened to without being heard will prove to be a most va luable
nd fruitful ana logy. For, in a way much reminiscent of Schumann 's irl11ere
timme, two answers can be given to the question about the nature of poli-
ical rea lity. On the one ha nd \ve have, to use t he musical terminology
dopted above, those 'classical' poli ti cal theorists and polit ical scient ist s
ccordi ng t o whom there is a measurable political reality that should be t he
asis and sta rting point of all reflect ion on pol itics. To press the analogy wit h
lusic a little further, within the classical conception of politics, nothing can
e lislened 10 in politics that had not been actually heard before. Political
nput ' on the one hand and political 'output' on the ot her, what
appened in the domai n of polit ics on the one hand and our percept ion of it
n the ot her - at all times t hese two are most directly and intimat ely inter-
:}nnected. There Gill and should be no 'gap' or 'discrepa ncy' between thi s
Ill1l\ll I)! p l1lnll \I ' I'ldllll.1I 11':lht V :11 11 1111\ ' il1llplll II I llin\, Wi' "'\lhjl'l.t i Vl' l y
l'\IWllI'lli \ ' \ Ill ... 1I"lIlt y. hll d ",Ill Ii :I g: 1I1 nr di ... l rq.anl)' wl' n' to pl"l' Sl'nt
W t' \\,ull id .... Vl'lll ttl IW l ll' i vl.' surnething in the politi cal worl d that is not
' Il':dl y' tlwn'; WI' wOllld then have bccomc the will -less playt hing of illusions
and or politicil myths. The Fact that we naturall y and immediatel y resort to
thi s kind of pejorati ve qualificat ion in this context clearly suggests already
how objectionable \ve would tend to t hink such discrepancies t o be. We are
thereFore naturall y inclined to agree with the 'classical' poli tical theorist 's
view that such a discrepancy woul d lack a flll1damel1tll1ll ill re and must
therefore be considered an expression of irrationality, of pri mitive instincts,
i1' not worse.
On the ot her hand, there are the political 'rornantics ' who reject t he
input/output model of thei r 'classicist' opponents. They will not deny t hat
in many cases, perhaps even most cases, t he model wi ll be adequate and
helpful - just as in music we will ordinaril y have listened to what we have
actually heard - but they also want t o leave room for cases in which in polit i-
cal reality somet hing new is produced that transcends the input/ output
model. When such a new political real ity comes into bei ng, we seem to be
li steni ng to a poli tica l il1nere Stirnme for which the classical input/ out put
model is unable to account. And, as wi ll become clear in this chapter, this
disagreement bet ween t he 'classical' and the ' romantic' poli tical theor ist is
not of mere academic significance; the sound functioning of our Western
democracies requires that we are able and prepared to li st en to that political
inn-ere Stimme in the compl ex symphony of democratic politics.
Perhaps we might observe here another argument in favour of the elective
affinities between democracy and t he market that have already been empha-
sised by so many wri ters. The value of a company or of a national currency
wil l not be found by fi guring out the values of the compa ny' s buildings,
machi nes, assets, bJnk accounts, and so fort h, nor by determining a country's
natural riches, its trade balance, and national savings. All t hese things may
seem to be very 'real' and determinate and t herefore the obvious and solid
basis for establi shing value; nevert heless it wi ll be the unpredictable and
often unexplainable vagaries of t he stock exchange that give us the best
definition of the economi c realit ies of a company or a nation. Hence, both
in democracy and in economics it is in the il1nere Stimme of polit ical and
economic interaction that 'reality ' reveal s itself. And there is no surer way to
disaster than the decision not to listen to this innere Stimme - as wi ll invari-
ably be t he case when we deci de to ignore what real ity is li ke.
What is Political 'Reality'?
If we wish to determine our own position in this debat e between 'classical'
and ' romanti c' poli t ical theorist s, it wi ll above all be necessary to propose a
l\lIlll('II "' :l111I 1I !I IIII\' 11(11 Il I 11 :-. 0 1 pnlllll:11 IlIplll :l lld   . .1 !l lIlpll1 " 11111... 1
:-' lIgg{·:-. li vl· l'x;llIlpll' (I I :-' lIl h :1 UllIl ll 'II :-': llion is prl'M'IIL{'d fl y MIIII ,I Y I d! , II1 1. III ,
when hl'   that the li tizens in a democracy arl' IlI g\·d ' It I lunk
upon gove rnment as a mechani sm that is responsive t o their wanl:-. upun
these in turn as rat ional refl ections of their int erest and moral upbringing and
t herefore as stable and continuing' (Edelman, 1971: 3). Put differently, on
the one hand there is the input of the political interests and desi res of the
citizen, and, on the ot her, the output of political decision making, And the
classical model of the nature of (democratic) political reality requires us to
conceive of the output of political decision making in terms of the in put of
those interests and desires of the citizen. Thi s does not in the least preclude,
however, that in actual democrati c practice this relationshi p between input
and output may be very complex and untransparent.
Thi s plausibility of the classical concept ion of the machinery of democracy
is still further reinforced by what Combs and Nimmo recently referred to as
'the Myth of the Good Ci tizen'. That is to say, by the widespread presup-
position that democracy is supported by ' peaceful citizens who by taste or
by interest sincerely desire the well -being of their country' (Combs and
Nimmo, 1996: 28). This myth of the Good Ci tizen seems to endow the clas-
sical politi cal model with a solid and reliable foundation in the reasonable
int erests and desires of the citizen and presents democratic poli ti cs tl S a more
or less complicated calculating machine that fi gures out the correct resultant
of al l these indi vidua l interests and desi res - wi thout addi ng anyt hing of
it self, if t hings go as they should. In short, there is a popular ideology of
democrati c politics - t hi s myth of the Good Citizen - that seems to grant an
immense plausibility t o the 'cl assica l' conception of democrati c politics.
"When the roma ntic poli tica l theorists wish to attack the input/output
model two arguments are at their disposal. Or, rather, as will become clear
in a moment, it is onl y the second argument that is reall y decisive, But since
the first argument offers a few interesting perspectives, it deserves our
attention within the present context as wel l.
Withi n the first argument the input/ output model is rejected since it is said
to be impossible in pol itics to identify clearl y and unambiguously what func-
tions as input for the output of public political action, Input and output are
simply insepa rable and the classical model therefore is an illusion. Even more
so, it is an illusion that is at odds with the very nature and spirit of democracy;
for is not this inseparabili ty of input and output one of the great est virtues of
democracy? Is democracy not the pol itical syst em attempting to link these two
together more closely and intimately than any ot her political system? Does thi s
classical principl e of the separability of political input and political output not
inevitably create a di stance between the two which, in its turn, inevitably
invites the danger t hat input and output no longer correspond? And if all t his
does not sound implausible, would t hat not justify the conclusion that the
classi cal model is a denial of the very idea of all democracy?
N I '\ ! , I P Il 1. 11I111 \,!1 111 1l , 11 1111 ·,11 1 ... 1\ will 1\ ' 1111 III II\'   I I ,: dl ... t ... :llId ", .II
11"'1I ' 1,1t ! , Iw lil l i, ' Ill ! IlI wd l 0l11I1 lll. ... " :-' 11111\ ' Hlndngy II I d\· llI u\..r:l l Y in thi :-.
I , I ... \..' Wltl l \-vh:1l dl'll Hil l ; 1\ y I ... 111 : 1L't ual hi .... torit..:11 rl,:dit y. They will therefore
I HI l he i. olltl' nl wll h t hl' l)bM'rv:ltion the classical model contradi cts
"' Pllll ' idl,;d nl'llHKT:ltic polit ics. They will also want to demonstrate that
dl' llI ocra Li c fJrtlclice is odds with the cl assica l model. Murray Edelman has
ll1adl' clear in what respect democrati c practice deviates from the classical
llotinl1 of the se parability of political input and pol iti cal output. One may
th ink hl're primaril y of hi s thesis according to which 'polit ical act ions chiefl y
arouse or sati sfy peopl e not by granting or withholding their stable sub-
... t:l11ti ve demands, but rather by changing t he demands and the expectations'
(Edelma n, 197 1: 7). Put differently, the output (of politi cal action) codeter-
mines the nature of the input and cannot be separated from it; or, in
I': cl elman' s own formulation, 'the significant "outputs" of politi cal act ivities
<Ire not parti cular publi c polici es labeled as politi cal goa ls, but rather the
lTcation of politi cal follOWing and supports: i. e" the evocation of arousal or
quiescence in mass publics' (1971: 4). And, in the second place, the reverse
is true as well. For just as pol it ical action codetermines the desires of the
citi zens, the citizens' demands will codetermine the polit ician's action - a
truth that Edelman puts into words by means of the provocative paradox
that ' politi cal leaders must follow their foll owers' (Edelman, 1988: 37). In
summary, if we look at both the idea l and t he practi ce of democracy, then
t he classical input/ output model must be rejected as a t echnocrat ic illusion.
But it is unlikel y that classical politi cal theorist s will be deepl y impressed
by t hi s kind of argument. They will protest that romanti c politi cal theori st s
have demonstrated precisely the opposite of what they wanted t o prove. For
t hi s argumentat ion, as they will go on to reason, succeeds not so much in
demonstrating the shortcomings of t he input/output model as its omnipres-
ence in politi cal reality, For what the romant ic politi cal theori st unintention-
all y showed has been that we will have to apply the model also in cases
where we origi nall y had been little inclined to make use of it. Apparently
there is a continuous interaction or interchange between all the actors and
fact ors that are operative in the politi cal domain, and for a correct under-
standing of t hi s interaction we \",i ll have t o apply the input/output model
even more intensively than hitherto.
An example may cl arify the classical politi cal theorist 's rejOinder. Think of
the situation in which two pol iti cal parti es that differ profoundly from an
ideologi cal point of view nevertheless see themselves forced to cooperat e in
order to prevent worse. One may think here of certain phases in the confli ct
between labour and capital in Western Continental democracies. Such a
situation will oft en give ri se to the paradoxi cal si tuation that precisely the
extremi st political di e- hards of both parti es di scover themselves to be each
other' s 'obj ective' allies, to put it in the jargon of some thirty years
ago. For those extremists wi ll be most strongly opposed to compromise and
' 1,1111111 , IIHI Il lt' v willlilld Ihl ' "" 10Ilg l , ... 1 . ll g llIlIl'llt Ipi IIII'll 11111 ,11 1' '' ':1' 111 t '
III till ' ,· \ In.'IIII "" 11 01 tlh'lI IIh'ologhal ; ulllpo dl· .... SO, 1111 Iht ' l illi ' 11 ,llId. t ill '"
' M " :ts wil ,lI I hI..' paradox thal thl..' grl..' :!t n.1 p ll ll\ u ,.I d. "', lg lI'l' .
Il1l'llt I S conduCive to the uf a shared politi c d goa l. 011 thl..' other
hand, as the cl assical political theorists wil l cmph<l sise, in t his realisation of
an shared Common political goal, we certainly cannot discern
a politICal lImere Stimme, as the romanti c is apt to do. For the classical
model is perfectl y well equipped to deal wit h this paradox.
fhe Input. of political polarisation hns caused the output of this rej ection of
compromIse and cooperation desired by the extremists of both parti es. In
other the shared goal of polit ical non-cooperation was already latentl y
present. 111 t he extremi st wings of bot h pa rties - and something really new,
somet h1l1g that would, so to speak, transcend what is writt en in the political
scores of the extremists of both parties and th(lt would lIot be reducibl e to
It, did not and .could not make itself heard. In short, in spite of this surprising
paradox of fnlltfully cooperating political extremists, we st ill safely find our-
selves here .111 the c, lear and tr:':lI1sparent world of classical political rationality.
But preCisely thiS example will also enabl e t he roma ntic politi cal theori st
to the defi ciency in hi s classical Opponent 's position, He \vi ll
beg\l1 by pointing out that his poli ti cal conceptions have their natural biotope
III the realm of political conAi ct - and that, if onl y for that reason, the exomple
proposed by the classical polit ical t heorist suits him excell ent ly. Just as
Schumann's inl1ere Stimme was only something that coul d be li stened to at
t ha nks to the opposi ti ons and the compl ex mutual interferences of what
IS played by the right and the left hands, so the politi cal innere St ilnme can
on ly come into being thanks to political opposition and con fl ict. There is no
room for this political inHere Slimme in a society that is reigned by a univer-
sal consensus - whether this consensus actua ll y exists or has been imposed
by brute, tota li taria n pol iti ca l force. Romantic poli tical renlity ca n only be
observed, therefore, in a society of poli tical st ruggle and confl ict . If democ-
. is the system aiming at the juste·milieu between confl icting
pollttcal pOSItIOns (see more extensively Ankersmit, 1997; 2002), t his pol iti -
cal 1I111ere St ulI/ne ca n be li stened to more often in democracy than in any
ot her political syst em.
But let us return to t he classical political theorist's example and focus now
not On the ideological extremists, but on those within bot h part ies who to compromi se and cooperate. It is there that we wi ll , for the
first time, recognise those democratic mechanisms that ca n properl y be
for only by the romanti c concepti on of political reality _ which
also. Just ifi es, by tne way, the inference that poli tica l renewal ca n never be
achIeved by extremists but only by those who are ready to cooperat e with
the political opponent. In the first place we should rea lise that this readiness
to cooperate wi ll make both parties look for compromise _ and the not ion of
compromise should be clearl y distinguished here from that of consensus.
Fll, IIII' I.ltlt ' l 11,,111111 . '>   ... t 1\ I ' \\1 , It t 11. .1 .til ' ul"gll :.I :' g ll ' l'IIU' Hl, !lUl ....
1\ I ... . Iy, I. t HII t ht ' 1'1 " "' pl ', t 1\ t ' , II d II k. t ' Ill Idl ' nlngh ,d P\):-' llIon:-. (11:-.1.. U:-':-' h)ll Illay
II · VI..· ; t! a :-. I'I 01 I hl l llli. :11 VIl ' \V:-' that buth parliL' s wi ll l..: onsider to lx' aCl..:eptable
(I I' 111,):-. t r :ll l \I I1:" . In till..' simplest case consc nSLlS will take t he Form of
0111 id .... nlil'it.atiun or the common denominator of the ideological position of
thl..' parlies involved. And in more complicat ed cases consensus will be a
dl..'vt'iopment of this common denominator into ideological directions that
hoth part ies had not foreseen when defining their own ideological positions
and that had, therefore, been left unexplored. But in all cases the ideologi-
1;) 1 conflict is not so much camouflaged, accepted or' momentari ly forgotte n
ror the sake of cooperation; conflict reall y disappears here: where there was
previously confl ict, consensus now reigns. Obviously consensus will primarily
be achi eved where ideological differences turn out, on closer inspection, to
be much small er than was initially beli eved. In sum, in consensus the com-
patibi li ty of different ideologies is exploited to the ful l. But precisely for this
reason consensus cannot produce anything that was not already present in
lhe existing ideologies; all the ingredi ents for consensus were already part of
those ideologies. So even here we are st ill in the realm of cl assical poli t ical
This process is different from that of compromise, which ocurs when two
parties agree upon a pol itical opt ion that is explicitly at odds with the deside-
rata of the different ideologies involved, but bot h parties are nevertheless
will ing to take the polit ical responsibi lity for this opt ion. They recogni se t hat
the existence of other parti es with other ideologies requires them t o accept
compromise as an unpleasant but inevi table fa ct about mea ningful political
decision rna king, if the even worse alt ernative of :1 t otal breakdown of t he
political machi ne is to be prevented. The paradox of political compromi se is
that, 6n the one hand, as in the case of consensus, one st ands by one's ideolo-
gical convict ion, but, on t he other hand, one is prepared to follow <l line of
politi cal action more or less inimical to that conviction. Hence, it wi ll be
obvious that politi cal compromi se may produce something really new, some-
thing that was not yet present in the existing catalogue of political ideologies.
Thi s does not alter t he fa ct that politi cal compromise will always bea r t he
marks or traces of the ideologies contained by that catalogue. And the impor-
tant conclusion is that, as opposed to consensus, compromise invites the
introduct ion of this political innere Sl imme in the symphony of democrati c
polit ics.
Polit ical compromise enables us, so to speak, to list en to the poli tical
innere Stimme that was not yet ' audible' in ideological conAict but that can
indeed be di scerned in it from a later point of view - the point of view
embodied by the political compromise. Only compromise can make us aware
of the point of view implicit in previously given political conflict and opposition.
Like Schumann's innere Stimme, this is a reality that can also become a reali ty.
This, t hen, is the kind of peculiarl y ambivalent reality that is indispensable
hI tfll' 11111!,"1 11111\ 1111111111: II I lil ' llllll r ; 1\ V tIl lIlI ... 1'\11 111 1 , 11 ',y', I, III tll,Il 1,111 1111\
11\ \' wlIlHIlillPlIl'llll
Even 1ll0rl' :-;0, thl' very 01 dl'1l1ULT:ll Y as Mil h 11\1\ tllIl ' .I1t'I U'd hy
bUl hy conSl' nsus and agn.:'cment which, as WI..' saw ahnVl', Il'av\' no
room for the political innere StillIllle. For, as Edelman puts it, 'whl'n stat e-
ments need not be defended against counterstatements, they are readil y
changed or inverted' ( 1988: 19). A stat e and society dominated by consen-
sus is an unstable state and society, since little will be needed to make
everybody change their opinion - with all the unpredictable and unpleasant
consequences t hat this may have. By contrast, in a state and societ y where
disagreement is dominant, the pros and cons of the confli ct ing opinions will
be Widely discussed and commented on. Under such circumstances public
opinion will develop slowly but responsibly, and politi cal disast ers that may
hurt everybody will be more easy to avoid. A society governed by consensus
is a stupid society, given to erratic and counterproductive behaviour, whereas
the society dominated by struggle and conf1ict wi ll ordinarily succeed in
avoiding the worst follies. As Montcsquieu already put it: ' In an age of igno-
rance one has no doubts even if one commits the most serious mistakes; in
an enli ghtened age one trembles even if producing the greatest benefits'
(Montesqlliell, 1973: 6) .
But even more surprising is the typically romanticist politi cal thesis t hat
the conflict betwcen political opinions shores up not only democracy but
also those conflicting politi cal opinions themselves. In a manner worthy of
Tocquevill e, Edelman formulates the insight as foll ows: 'as soon as ... bits of
language ci rculate in a culture and present themselves for acceptance or
rejection, it becomes evi dent that t exts become buhvarks of each other while
isolated text s, unsupported by opposition, are readily vulnerable to new lan-
guage' (Edelman, 1988: 19; my italics). The force of politi cal positions partly
lies, paradoxica ll y) in the opposition they wi ll encounter beca use of t he pres-
ence of other and riva l politi cc.d positions. It follows that in a democracy the
political innere Sliml'ne will be easier to discern and that it will playa more
benefi cial role, to the extent that pol itical positions are more clearly delin-
eated and easier to recogni se for all concerned.
Indeed, nobody had a cl ea rer eye for t he kind of insight into the nature of
democracy and of public debate expounded above t han Alexis de
Tocquevi ll e. Though no oeuvre resists summary and recapitulat ion more than
Tocqueville's, I may be allowed to indicate one constant in his observat ions
on democracy t hat is relevant here. Tocquevi ll e always likes to confront his
readers with the paradoxes of democracy: he likes to impress on us t hat
democracy funct ions for reasons precisely opposite to what we tend to
associate with that political syst em. He says) for example, that democracy is
not inclined to revolutionary change but to conservat ism) that public debate
in a democracy is not a debate in the proper sense of the word but rather a
dialogue des sourds, t hat poli tical decision maki ng is not decision making but
1. 11111 ' 1 till' \ 11', 111 \1' . 1\ \ \111.111\\ ' \d II .lInl tli; II 11u' d, · IIII I\ I .III, ... t :rl, · Il\lt
"\1' , 1111 ' Wl l.11 tl H' I l,'ppl" WI ... II II I !I"lllil', hill th:1l1111' pl'opll' d,·{ ldl' wll:lt till'
\I. 11l' :1 1. 1111 ·\' 1· ... \11 111l· ... t ll.1\ ha' w (l L i\llkl'r:-;lnit , I And always the
  tll :lt W I ' .... IHll dd n u l :-;I'l' till' Sl' paradoxes as signs of degenerat ion
I II {h' lnm r:H. y, hill ;1:-; Ihl' conditiuns or it s successful functioning - though it
' '''I.. l'rl;li nl y trul' that also fears from democracy several t hreats to
till' LaUSL' or Iiherty.
1 not d"vell any longer here on Tocqueville's paradoxes, nor on
wllL,ther we should always agree with him. Instead I want to point out the
longi..' niality between this kind of paradox and our notion of the poli tical
,,",ere Sli ,-mne. For as is generally t he case with paradoxes, Tocquevi ll e's para-
dnxcs also make us aware of an unsuspected poli ti cal reality that is, in some
way or ot her, hidden or present in our naive discourse about democracy, but
that wc may on ly become aware of thanks to the confl ict s and paradoxes in
that discourse, Paradox is t he figure of speech confront ing us with these con-
lli cts in our speaking and t hinking and t hat requires us to look at rea li ty itself
in orde r to find our way out of the impasse into which paradox has led us.
And if we follow t his injunction of paradox and actually turn to real ity it self,
we sha ll see that what di scourse made us bel ieve to be incompatible can
peacefull y coexist in reality itself. For example, on the basis of what we asso-
ciate wit h these words, egoism seems to be incompatibl e with the common
interest, but if we m::l y believe Bernard de Mandevi ll e and Adam Smit h, in
reality these two things are in line with each other. In a si milar way,
TocquevilJe often succeeds in demonstrating t hat what we initiall y believed
to be at odds with the principles of democratic government is, in fact, a
condition for its proper funct ioning.
I f we wish to account for t hese paradoxes of democracy, Machiavelli 's
perspect ivisrn will prove to be our best point of departure. This viewpoi nt
has it s origins in Machiavelli 's attack on ethics that many people down to t he
present day have found so profoundly shocking. The point of Machiavelli 's
argument I have in mind here (see furt her Ankersmit, 1997: 11 5) is t hat in
soci al-polit ical reality t here is no perspecti ve or point of view that is uniquely
privileged above all others in discovering and defi ning mora l t rut h. Even
more so, not only is there no such Archimedean point of moral trut h that
would enable us to justify our own moral and poli tical act ion, it is often
exactly the other who is in a better posit ion to assess the merit s of our action
than are ourselves. ' Real' moral truth chooses it s h0J11e rather wi th the
other than wit h ourselves (and the unsettling fact is that this is true for each
determination of what should count as 'ourselves'). Hence, paradoxicall y, it
is precisely our respect of the other that requires us t o surrender our own
moral certaint ies - and thus any certainty that we might have wit h regard to
how we should properly demonstrate our respect for t he other. ' Real' moral
t ruth - in short, polit ical truth - is not so much a matter of perky inner moral
conviction as a matt er of how 'the other ' perceives 'the outside' of our acti on
ll q:', l1dk"" \\ 1 1) 111 IIIUl ' l 11I 111, d l \l lI VI l 1 11111 \ Ikll l11.I Y \11 111il y ' Hd 11 , \ \ , ' 111 " 11111,, 1
It), :11 1(.1 "'t' :-. hOtdd tl ll'IdOl l' alw:l Y:-' lOn .... ldl'1 wi tll till' 1', 'I · "lt " ,1 dl "IIII "\ nllr
'Cartesia n' inclinali on Lo 1ll :1kt.: eLhi cs int u a matt er l )1 (\111:-.\ It ' I1 \ \" Mnral
Cartcsi.mism lcads LI S away from ' rea l', essenti all y POli f ic(// tl ll) ra! t ru t h
to moral solipsism and the moral complacency of an ethi cal egocent rislll,
however sublime the ideals of Cartesian ethics may often seem to us at
fi rst Sight.
But what Machi avelli affirms here about ourselves is obviously just as true
for the other as it is for ourselves. And thi s justifies the conclusion that the
source of moral (or, rather, politica l) rect itude cannot be located in our-
selves, nor even in others, but inst ead in the space between ourselves and the
others, so to speak. Much like Schumann's innere Stimme, moral and politi-
cal rectitude can only come into being in the interaction, the interference
and in the conflict between politi cal and ideological convictions with regard
to moral and polit ical truth. Next, it is self-evident t hat democracy, more
than any other politi cal system, will have a natural affinity with Machiavelli' s
perspecti vism as described. For is democracy not inspired by the belief that
polit ical truth can only be the result of t he interaction of indi viduals and
groups in a democrat ic society? The essentially monological di scourse of
ethi cs is therefore basicall y at odds with the dialogue of democracy and,
hence, the notion of an ethi cal or moral foundation of democracy should be
considered a contradictio in terminis, Thus, not hing has contributed more
importantl y to the constructi on of the political mentality of democracy
than this ill-famed rej ection of the pret ensions of ethics that we find in
Machiavelli 's The Prince.
Political Style
Several conclusions about the notion of political style follow from the fore-
going. In order to clarify these conclusions, I shall appeal t o another less
obvious source within the present context, namely Schill er's essay Ober naive
und sentimentalische Dichtung of 1796. Schiller distinguishes here between
what he refers t o as ' naive' and 'sentimental' poetry. He defines this distincti on
as follows: naive poetry is, above all, an expression of nature and should also
be experi enced as such, Put differently, in naive poetry we will find not only
an expression of 'being that is free, that is, being which takes it s exist ence
out of itself', but also of the awareness, 'or of the very idea of thi s natural
existence that is not in need of anythi ng outside or beyond itself. And only
thanks to thi s 'awareness' or thi s ' idea' are we able to recogni se naive poetry
as such and can we be so deepl y moved by it : 'We love in it not certain
obj ect s, but the idea t hat they represent' (Schill er, I S67: 110) .
What exactly is meant by this ' idea' may become clearer when we noti ce
that Schill er links it expressis verbis to moral ity. Why he does so is suggested
!I Y 11\\. 1" 11 \\"' 111 ),, I 11111P;1II"dll P'dp')'>l'd hy 111111 . 'vVl' \\)ll ....   lhl : l il,ilt! tn he
' O: II VI " all d 11 ''' Ill'l l . \'-. 1!. " vI'IV ill'I: III M' wl' lll' li ,,'vl':1 l alll or Pl.' ri cCtiO
to be
1'1l'''l'nl In tilt' l hild':-. n :\l vl' l Y, And ineviLabl y eve ry adult like has,
1': I .. h lIr u:-. in a dil'fl' rl'nt way, r:lih.:d to li ve up t o this call for perfection. Put
tldT .. 'H'ntl y, the child embodi es a promise of perfection that n? adult ever
"'Kc('l'cicd in fulfilling. This is why the child confronts us with our OW,n
IllOra l imperfections and, hence, why the child's naivet y has for the adult thi S
doubl c significance of being a moral appeal and a sign of hi s own rno,ral
Imperfection. Speaking more generall y, the naive embodi es a, of bemg
destined to natural perfection, whi ch is achieved without artifi ce and reflec-
tion and present ed t o us like a gift of nature; on t he one hand, it re,quires us
to overcome our imperfections and weaknesses and to return t o thIS natural
naivety; but on the other, precisely by manifesting itself as a requirement,
hence as something coming from outside ourselves and what we naturally
are, it makes us deepl y aware of the impossibility of ever satisfying thi s
requirement . There is a kind of doubl e bind in the very Idea of thi S naive
moral perfection: either we possess it , but then we are unawa:e It, or we
have to strive for it, and then we know t hat we can never achIeve It,
Thi s brings us to sentimental poetry, which is, basicall y, the of poetry
originating from thi s awareness of the immeasurabl e of n3l vet y and of
what we therefore lost forever by losing it. We now reahse that we are no
longer part of nature, that we belong to the world of artifice and culture. We
feel unhappy about thi s, and therefore want to get back to nature and
to ask ourselves how best t o achi eve t hi s (impossibl e) goal. The result IS sen-
timental' poetry. And t he contrast between naive and sentimental poetry can
therefore be summari sed, in Schill er 's own words, as follows: 'The poet, I
said, either is nature, or he slrives for it; the former is t he naive, and t he
latter the sentimental poet ' (Schiller, I S67: 12S) .
The crucial diffe rence between the twO forms of poetry is that the nai ve
poet has no sense or consci ousness of what is t o, for it is
his grace ' to be at home even after havi ng left behmd hImself what IS known
and to extend nature without movillg beyond it ' (Schill er, I S67: li S). The
sentimental poet is in a far less comfortabl e positi on: finding caught
in this opposition between nature and culture, he irrevocably IS par: of
culture and yet wants to return t o nature. Reality - nature - therefore IS t o
him as much an infinite task as an invincible barri er (Schill er, I S67: 132).
It must strike us how much Schill er 's di stincti on between naive and sen-
timental poetry is in agreement with Hegel 's philosophy of hi story: the naive
is the evident analogue of Hegel's 'objecti ve mind ' and the
of t he 'subj ective mind'. And if we recall, next , t o what extent the dial ectICs
of the objective and the subj ective mind is for Hegel the creator of all the
polit ical realities that have been reali sed in the course of world his tory, thiS
may already give us an inkling of the political dimensions and 1I11plicatlOIl s of
S lhd ll, l .... 1i!..,lrth l HlIl WI' IIH' I I' l lIl l ' tll'l,d rl PI III ' .." It I II 1', 1-, ( 11, ,11 ' ,111 1, :1
  ti y jlt l l,lll ; d ti lLllkl'l , I'" Sdnil vi dill Ill..lllh'.." l :ll(' 1(1 tl. ' ""I..1i' till' ,1. , llllt -
l ion to tht' dom;,lin or Plililil :-'. And, ind(' l' d, he L'1l<i:-. h • ..,   \\'11 1, Wk'l 1:-'
arguably one or the most illlt: resting comme nts on polili c:d 1'\.' : ,[ 1:"111
ideali sm that has eve r been wri tten. El sewhere in hi s essay he di scusses
' naive ' politi cal personalit ies such as Pope Adria n VI; ot her examples of naive
politi cians proposed by Schill er are Julius Caesar and Henry IV of France
because t hey found 'egg-of-Columbus-like' solut ions for the politi cal probl ems
of t heir age. Unfortunately Schiller gave us no exampl es of 'sentimenta l' politi -
cians. This is to be regretted because - as \ve shall see in a moment - polit ical
problems most often present t hemselves in t he domain of the 'sentimental' .
But more important is the foll owing. Tra nsposed int o the domain of
polit ics, the naive is obViously in line with the specul at ions of nat ural law
philosophy and, more generall y, with t he convicti on that politi cal reality is
basi call y unambiguous and t ransparent and t hus, in the end, compl et ely
fa thomable by the naive poli t ical theori st and by nai ve poli tica l theory. It
may not be easy to do this, and will admittedl y requi re the great est intell ec-
tual sophi sti cat ion, but if we give our best to t hi s important t ask, no impene-
t rabl e secret s necessa ril y need remain . In this sense almost all of poli t ical
theory and contemporary polit ical science is ' naive', as t his term is under-
by Schill er. For on all occasions one is convinced t hat a point of view,
a di scourse, a system, or whatever you have, ca n be found in terms of whi ch
the whole of poli tica l reali ty wi ll become t ranspa rent to our rati o and our
Compelling in Schill er 's analysis, t hen, is t hat it already identifi es where
we should expect a fi ssure in thi s all egedl y seamless web of politi cal reality
of the naive poli t ical t heori st. For Schill er wri tes t he foll OWing about the
naive poet ic or poli tical genius: ' It is modest si nce t he genius will nlways be
a secret to himse lf ' (Schill er, 1867: 11 9) . The inSight is that it will be impos-
sible to adequately clarify and expl ain t he success of the na ive poet wi thin
the discourse of naivety itself - in order to do so, it will be inevitable to
adopt t he discourse of the sentiment al. The whole of Schill er 's own argu-
ment , or what ever anybody might wish to say about the poeti call y or the
poli ti call y naive, is therefore necessa ril y part of t he discourse of the senti-
mental. The na ive is, hence, a cat egory within t he sent imental; surely, the
naive as such can exist out side t hat category, but it cannot be thought or
conceptualised outside the category of the senti ment al.
This brings me to the essence of t he argument on politi cal style that is pre-
sented in t hi s chapter. For the crucial impli cat ion is that the notion of poeti c
or of poli t ical st yle can have neither meani ng nor cont ent for t he naive poet
politician or politi cal theorist. They will experi ence t heir poetry, their
cal acti on or thought as a direct expression of the way the world is, as a mani-
festat ion of the nature of things, as a cont inuati on (Erweiterung, as Schill er
put it) of it and not as merely one of t he many different ways that we
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1111lh. Onl y :.l:l 1:lll' 1 :.. t :l gl', whell thl..'y k lVe l.'nlen.: d into i.I rel ati onship with
11H'11l :.. (.' lv\,.':-, and wil h dh..' worl d and t hereby lost t heir ' naivety' and naive
11l1l0L'l'Ul.l', wi ll tlll' Y rea li sc that their 'naive ' poet ry and poli t ical act ion pro-
I l'l'l..iL'd from mcrely one of the many possi bl e perspecti ves that 'we may
    with regard to reali ty. Onl y after they have become, in a cert ain
"' (,l1se, 'a n other ' , that is to say, a later self, onl y aft er they thus became able
lu objectify t heir for mer self, may t hei r eyes be opened t o thei r previous
:-. tylc of thinking, writi ng and act ing (whil e, at t he sa me time, necessaril y
remai ning blind to t heir present st yle). And because of t hi s most peopl e,
hcing li t tl e incl ined t o int rospecti on and self-objectificat ion, wi ll remain in
ignorance of t he style in which t hey present t hemselves to others. In sum, as
was t he case wit h Machiavelli 's perspecti vism descri bed above, our style is
primaril y somethi ng for the other t o observe; we are typicall y bli nd t o our
own style. Z
Obviously, all thi s is even more tr ue for hO\<\' we relate to others. The gap
exist ing between our na ive behaviour or self-awa reness and the style t hat we
may discern in it from a later perspective, will be t he gap normall y existing
between ourselves and t he ot hers (we are ' naive' wit h regard to ourselves
and 'sent imental' with rega rd to the others, so to speak). It is natural for the
other t o see me in t he -way t hat I may perha ps come to perceive mysel f from
a lat er perspecti ve - and vice versa . In short , the charact erisati on of person-
alit y in t erms of style is what we shall opt for when we consider a personality
' from the outside' as it were; and t his will be t he case as long as we do not
reel t empted t o relat e t hi s behaviour to some hidden, deep-lying sources of
the personali ty, and as long as \'ve remain convinced t hat all that is relevant
in huma n thought and acti on simply is t his ' outside' .
For several reasons, this shoul d not be seen as some variant of behaviouri sm.
First, whereas behaviouri sm finds in publicly observable human behaviour the
foundat ion for a science of human act ion, st yle does not (::lttempt to) explain,
it characterises; style does not t ell us why, but how individual s t hink or act.
Second whereas behaviourism considers hUl11an personalit y t o be a kind of
black that will be of no use t o us in our effort to explain and to predict
human behaviour, human personality will be at t he focus of our interest when
we use t he not ion of style for t he characterisation of human behaviour. Our
concept ion of an individual 's style will be t o us a kind of substitute, replacement
or model of that individual's personali ty, and will be of use to uS preci sel y
because it has this function for us. What we see as the person's st yle will be
what he is like t o us. And I also emphasise this ' to us', for when using the
notion of style we thereby fully accept the 'subjectivity ' that is impli ed by that
notion. That is t o say, style does not pret end to present us with some deep
psychological trut hs about a human indi vidual's personalit y t hat would in
plrrhl p l\ , Iw :1\ \ l ' p l.ll ll" ti l ' 1II vhotl y Whll I.., ,Ih l v 1\1 "' llt' oIk 1111 1,,01',IL" I',I ' 1I1
P"'Yl.l!\l logy. St y lI' a way With lim. 'Il on.., l rou.., a ll. :lI lll' t il ,\ f ,I ' III ' r,dl .." ,.I ,
illlp.,: r:-. onal !>uhjl'l t or knowledge wit h a secret 0 1 lrllth d. 't'l' h 1'1(ldl.. ' n
in some inner sanctuary of the indi vidual - an alli ance from wh rl h :-. n Ill lKh
contemporary phil osophy of acti on has originated, Style organi ses items of
human behaviour without pretending to bring us to some deeper level
all egedly lying behind these items of behaviour themselves; for it does t hi s job
of organi sing behaviour in the space between the individual human being in
questi on and ourselves, so to speak, and not by moving beyond t hat space into
the sphere of a hidden, inner self of t hat individua l.
In this way the use of the noti on of style with regard t o human act ion
strangely combines a focus on what ca n publicl y be seen (as in behaviouri sm)
with an interest in unique individual personali ty (wit h all its traditi ona l
Ca rtesian reminiscences). Style t here fore presents us with a mix of objec-
tivi sm and subj ecti vism in our concept ion of human behaviour that puts it
apart from most of contempora ry phil osophy of action. O n t he one hand,
style is as old as humanit y, since it is t he cat egory that human individuals
have always re lied upon in order to make sense of each other's behaviour'
but on the other, the category is new and revolutionary since phil osophy of
action has always shunned it on account of its unscient ific nature and 'super-
ficia li t y'. Admitt edl y, t he noti on of st yle is unscientific and 'superficial' in
the proper sense of that word, but thi s is precisely why we need it so much:
for in our dealings with other human beings we are interest ed in what goes
all betweeu us, so in what is on the surface of t he behaviour of the other, so
t o spea k, We are predominantl y interested in what takes place on the imer.
face bet ween the ot her and myself (to use compute r t erminol ogy) and not
in some deep, psychological truths abollt the other.
Thi s will also make clear where we should d raw the boundary between
what can and cannot be reali sed when we have had the wisdom to avail our-
selves of the noti on of st yle in our dealings with others - and in politics, With
regard t o what cannot be rea li sed} where others, as we have seen} experi e nce
themselves ' naively' and non·stylistically, thi s naive experi ence of the se lf is
t he li mit that our styli sti C representation of ot hers and t heir behaviou r will
neve r be able to atta in. With regard to what can be achieved by the notion
of st yle, it will give us access to most of what makes cul ture and pol iti cs of
signifi cance and of va lue to us, For what is truly of interest t o us in culture
and politics is not the objective Content of \vhat is naively given to us, is .not
a quasi -Kant ian an sich of what culture and politi cs might mean t o them-
selves (supposing that we could make any sense at all of thi s effort to reach
into the all sich of culture and polit ics) , but what becomes accessible to us in
terms of the 'senti mental' approach of these two domains. As Schiller put it
himself: ' Naivet y has its value in t hat it may completely grasp the finite, while
the other [i. e., t he sentimental) has thi s va lue in the approximat ion of t he
infinite' (Schill er, 1867: 130).
\Vt ' .., 11111 rid 11 " tI " ,I ' I II L1 1 I I,, ' drlll ' lt ' nt 1, 111' 1 \\" "' 11 1I , 1t1111 ' ,rlld II \\' 11 , 11 \ I', \111 li n '
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,rll (kt.i :-. .vl') , Fur III :I ,,-,' rl :lIll ..,,' nM' titl'!'l' .. no :-.ell -knmvll.. 'dj.!,l' lhal lould IUlh -
li o n :.IS such an ahsolll ll' of all and T1:1ivl'l y b Il' ll
, I potent ial obj ect of knowledge to itself in the way that the sentimental e m
111..' . Nai vet y should not be seen as a kind of idea l of knowledge that ca n only
,,"'y mptoticall y be approached in t erms of the sentimental : for the dOlll ain nl
till' nai ve sui generis lies outside or beyond the reach of (seIF-)retl ecti oll.
vVhell opposing the naive and the sentimental, Schi ll er assures us that 'onl y
lhl' latt er recogni ses different degrees and progress ', an observati on that is
hot h t rue and mi sleading. It is mi sleading in that it invites all t hese models
Il l' scie ntifi c knowledge aiming at the approximati on of ultimate trut h th:l t
"ontemporary phil osophy of sc ience has imprinted upon our minds. But here
this ultimate truth - the naive - is not a goa l to be approximat ed as much as
possibl e. O n the ot her hand, Schi ll er 's state ment is true in the sense that it
expresses the inSight that the st ylistic or aesthetic underst anding of the other
wi ll depend on the degree of the substitutabi lity of our st ylistic charact eri s-
tisations of the other for the ot her 's actual behaviour - at least insofar as thi s
behaviour is seen from our own specifi c poi nt of view',
We ca n summarise t hi s as follows. All our knowl edge of, grasp of, or
inSight into sociopolitical rea lity can be divided into three categories. In the
first place there is ' naivet y' as intended by Schill er: here the self is neither
object ified nor themat ised; it is experienced - if it is experienced at all - as
bei ng ;) mere conti nuation of nature and of rea lity. But , in the second place,
the naive self may become the dominant pa rtner in t he relationship bet ween
t he self and n:lture or reali ty, Then refl ection about nature or reality may
become a di sguised form of naive self-refl ecti on, Here we have, in Schi ll er 's
words, an 'extension' (Erweit enmg) of the self ove r the non-self; and insofar
as we would be prepared t o use here t he not ions of (se lf)refl ecti on, we
should describe this as the pecul iar kind of recogniti on of the self that will
be given to one after one has made, unwitti ngly and unintent ionall y} the
whole of reality int o a mirror-image of t he self. The self can here discern in
realit y onl y variant s of itself - but it remains unaware of thi s bound less
extension of the self and it can persist in this ignorance since this extension
t ook place under the aegi s of a nameless, anonymous and transcendental self.
Thi s is the world of natural law phi losophy and of much, though not ali , of
the social sciences.
But in the third place, there is an att itude t owa rds or an understanding of
the worl d t hat respect s that there is a world ali en t o us. Thi s is the domai n
of t he sentimental, of the awareness of being an out sider, of bei ng in a
relationship t o nature or (political) rea li ty wi thout being an int egral part of
it (as in the naive) - and yet we wish to return to nature and (political) reality.
, \ ... ... \11111 ..... \\ 1' l'lll1'l till' dllltt.I HI HI tIll' "'l· HIIIIII.: nt.d, \\", \\lt ll bnl ,III, IIltnl
Ollt ... l · hl· ... . 11"1\, · \1111.11\,· ,,· 11 ;1\,,;11'· 11' · ...... 11) hULl! tlw 1'11111 ', 1"-11 1.1. · ... , II
Iwd.1 IIHIlI1t'nl ago. WI' h:1\'e..' now k·lllht' 'egocentricity' o l th .. 11.11\,' ""' lIllt,lt
1 ... . ::. lIli !'>o Illul...h urged 011 U!) by !..'lhics, by Cartesian and Kanll :ln phdU:-'Ollphy
01 mind and all its modern SUCcessors (think, for example, of the highly cha r-
acteristic 'egocent ricity' of the Cartesian cogito). Now we no longer project
ourselves on the worl d, but reach se lf-reflection and/or self-awareness via the
OIller. We sec ourselves as the ot her will see us (as we ourse-Ives may become
aware of the style of our previous behaviour only at a later phase in our life
and, hence, from the perspect ive of that later alter ego). In this third, 'senti-
ment:J I' paradigm, not t he self (or some gener.:ili sed intersubjective
t ranscendental self) but the ot her is the beginning of all wisdom. This is the
paradigm that we encounter in aesthetics and in the wr iting of hi st ory; and
the most important instrument it has to offer us is the not ion of style.
The Political Styles of Democracy
In no political system is thi s stylistic understanding of the other rnore cnlcial
and indispensable than in representative democracy. As the concept of ' repre-
sentative' democracy already clearly indicates, it is only thanks to how the
state 'represent s' the electorate, and in its turn, how the clectomte constnlcts
for itself a 'represent:Jtion' of the state and of politics, that all the mechanisrns
of a representative democracy start to move and to function properly. This typi-
call y aesthetic notion of representation (cf. Ankersmit, 1997; 2002) suggests
how the notion of democratic style could best be operationali sed. For, JS may
be clear on the basis of the foregOing, the understanding that the electora te and
the state mutually have of each ot her is not ' naive', not a form or derivative of
socia-scientific knowledge, but essentiall y stylistic: the object of politi cal
Lillderstandi ng is Lhe style of the other, whether of the stat e or of (groups
Within) the electorate. And the deliberate st ylelessness of 'n::live', economic
and bureaucratic understanding thJt dominates contemporary political
discourse - however useftd these discourses may somet imes be - will ultimately
result in a blockage of the mechanisms that keep the machine of representa-
t ive democracy going. An economic or bureaucratic reality wi ll then usurp the
place of a political rea lity of an il111ere Stimme resulti ng from t he interacti on
between the 'right hand' and the ' left hand' of the represented and of the
representative. One of the major problems of contemporary Western demo-
cracy is that because of all the clutter of socia-scientific data _ of statisti cs
bureaucracy and so on - the electorate and the state simply are no longer
to recogni se and understand each other. Only style can gua rantee this mutual
recognit ion and understanding - and give us access to ' the ot her' again.
Just as either the right hand or the left hand may be t he main contributor
to t he development of t hi s polit ical iI/Here Stimme, so it , .... ill also be possible
III IIldl, .II,· , till tI .. 11.1-.1 ', "I lilt' w ll .11 11111 ... 1 h. · 11t\ · 1'11111.11 \ til
\· It.· llIl·I1t. II V 1III I Itll . .1 ,.\,11'" III II·PIl·".' Il!all "l· dl ' ltlihl,ll V (Iltllugh I iLl'l,'O
III add llt. tt Ihl .. d,ll ·'. III II ,I'" \l'l Illlply anylhlng Wi th Iq-:.nd ll) lh"11' Il·bIIVl·
A d .... ltlh IIIUI IIladt.· hy Schiller to Ill' Iwiplull ll...'rl' Otlll.'
1 am lhinking heft' 01 his distinction between thL' dq!,ial and tht.'  
... lyles. For Schill er elegiac poetry and elegiac politi Gll style corn::sp?nd with
lhe naive; they culti vate nature and what is natural at the expense at cullurl',
art and artificiality. And, as Schiller explicitly points out , the curious paradox
is th:.1t in this W:JY the natural becomes idealistic and the world of' art and
culture realistic: from our present (sent imental) perspect ive not clIltllre, hUI
IICl1llre presents it self as a shaky and uncertJin construct ion. In this way
Schiller ni cel y :Jnd elegantl y succeeds in turning upside down.
Obvious exampl es of' this elegiac and idea li stic democratic political style an:
t he idyll ' of natura l law theory and the ideal(s) of direct democracy.
Opposi t e to the elegiac style Schill er places satirical poetry, which corre-
sponds with the sentimental: 'Satiri ca l is the poet who takes as his subject
the estrangement from reality and the opposition between reality and the
ideal (the effect both have on the human mind is in each case t he same)
(Schi ll er, 1867: 133). In connecti on to the world of politi cs we may think
here of the political st yle that is ordinarily called Machi avellistic: in
Machiavellism the satire of political action results from the rejection of the
ideal as the highest political reality. For this reason we may agree with Robert
Hariman when he writes that ' the realist style is the lx!si s of Machiavelli 's
persuasive success, it has shaped his text's subsequent hi story of interpreta-
tion, and it operates as a powerful mode of comprehension and action in the
modern world '. And in agreement with Schill er's not ion of the satirical as a
subcategory of the sentimental, he also situates Machi c1Vell i's e ndeavour to
bring back the idea (i.e. Machi avelli 's own high-pitched republicanism) to
nature, that is, to polit ical reality (Hariman, 1995: 13). In recent ana lyses of
the comedies that Machi avelli wrote (such as La Mcmdragola) scholars Jl so
attempt to identify in these comedi es thi s same peculiar combination of
comedy, satire and reali sm that is so much the out standing Feature of his
poli tica l writings (for example, Fenichel-Pitkin, 1987: 110- 14) . Hence,
where the idyll of the naive politi c:J1 st yle placed us in the universe of the
citizen li ving in a direct democracy, t he sati re of t he sent imental democrati c
style has its el ective affini t y with the democratic poli tician's di lemmas of
\Vh:.1t most prudent and effective use he should make of poli tical power.
But more important than t he st yle of na ive idyll and that of sentimental
s<l tire is how Schil ler proposes to subdivide sati re. As we sha ll see in a
moment, it is only t hi s subdivision that will give us the st yle suitable for the
polit ical ;lIl1ere Sli1'llllle of democracy. The d istinction t hat is releva nt here is
t he one between tragic and comic sati re. Tragic sat ire is the style proper for
showi ng how the sheer weight of reality may reduce all human intent ion ,
wltt ·t lwr g\l\ld PI h.ld, \11 dl ... lll .rI, larlln t'. 1 11-1( · 111, , 1,.1111,111 IIhll\ldll . rl ....
;1 IIll'lt · 01 ... Oll .1I :llld poll lil al rea li ty alld IIII.rlllt · III " \ , ' 11 .I II Y
aulonorllOW. tnl hu·llu ...· upon it. t\ l.·xample, :IClordlllg t ,1 S, llIlh'l
'ElCi tus' account of the hnlle realities of first-century Rome. '
But, contrary to what one perhaps would have expected, far more interest
and sympathy are di splayed by Schi ll er for comic satire. As will become
clear, this is the style that overcomes the one-sided ness of both naive idyll
s.cnt,mental satire and that best agrees wi th the world of political con-
fl ICt In representati ve democracy. Schill er gives the following argument in
.of his Own preference: 'This is why the tragic poet always deals with
hiS matter in a practical way, and the comic poet in a theoretical way'
(Schill er, 1867: 136). The idea is that the t ragic poet ca n safely rel y upon the
extreme seri ousness of hi s subj ect-matter to ca ptivate the interest of the
audience. The comedy writer is without this advantage; success wi ll come in
thi s, if at all , onl y thanks to the writer's wit, intelli gence, inventiveness and
t:::ll ent to lend to fi ctive reality authent ici ty and credibilit y. It is the writer's
handicap 'to discover eve rywhere chance rathe r than fate' and to have to cre-
ate a fictive. world is believable to the audi ence out of the unpromi sing
and pedest nan mat enal that is present ed by the goddess of fortune _ that is
the goddess of fat e and of the unforeseeable but decisive accident . Hence:
chall enge the comedy wri ter has to meet, is 'to restore spontaneously the
unity t hat had been taken from it by abstraction' (Schill er, 1867: 158) _ a
that .is unknown to the tragic poet since thi s unity is already
automat ICa ll y given by the sublime subject matter.
We may also observe here to what extent the logic of comedy (unlike that
of tragedy) agrees with that of representat ion in general - ;md wi th political
representation in parti cul ar. For crucial to all (poli ti cal) representat ion is a
silll il ar substi tution of the unity (of ident it y) of the represented for that of
its representat ion (c f. Ankersmi t, 200 1: ch. 8). Even Ill ore so, t hi s is pre-
Cisely where the whole use and function of representat ion must be looked
for: representations are 'i mitations' of reality allowi ng us to speak about real-
ity in terms. of them." But since it is a 'substitute realit y' and not real it y itself,
may make us bett er aware of certain aspects of reali ty that
remalll hidde n or di fficu lt to perceive in reality - which is one of the othe r
merit s of representation above reality itself and (t rue) description of
reality (cf. Ankersmit , 2000). This is why representation can, in the practice
of democratic polit ics, be so successful and even outri ght indi spensable when
we listen to dernocracy 's if1nere St imme. In sum, Schi ll er's eulogy of
comIC satire may help us recognise in what way democracy'S innere St;mme
may .present itself to perception: we can li sten to it in the polit ical reality
that. IS created by polit ICa l representation and in the autonomy that this new
reality possesses wit h regard to the represented.
I t herefore heart ily agree with the account of democracy given by Combs
and Nimmo; more speCifica ll y, when they present in their book The Comedy
II / /)1 '1111/(/ ( / 1 \ ,. 111111111 •• 1 1.1 .11 r "1l Wllh III I.' Vlll lt ,d till' \ w \\' 11",1 I Ill' ... t,d\ · , .I
I It 'nlPl I .Il Y , ... \· ..... \ · 111' . ,1 Iv '''1111\ A ... . , \ 11 dlll:lI!l y II H' .. , ....... wlll'lI Wt' ;,1 Il'llIpl 1\1
I" ... tr ly ... t yh<.,(h ,11. ".1\ 1\ ' 1 1 .... . 1 HII)<." tilt' '''   d\1 111 1\ P" 11I 1I 1 tlnl\l " lt v, '
I II \H):.:II I1 .... ltl\lII When we c.kscril w   a w,·h 01 ....
what Wl' should l.' XIJl.'d . The foll owing can h,,-, dbcl.Tncd in tlw
IIlIl'mr image that LUlll Cdy presents to dcmocr;)cy. Like Schill er, ;.IIld
Nimmo also prefer comedy to tragedy si nce comedy succeeds in gent'faling
Ib structure out of itself, while structure is effort lessly given to tragedy in ib
, ubject matter. It is both the burden and the beauty of comedy that it gives
us J world without pre-existing rules; it is a world that is 'un-rul ed rathe r
t han mis- ruled ' (Combs and Nimmo, 1996: 16). The paradox of colll edy is
l hat its own order should suggest, as adequately as possibl e, the lack or orcl e r
l' xisting in reali ty it self. And Combs and Ni mmo there fore also see in Machi-
's comedies - wit h their sat irical comments on human weakness and
stupidity, wit h their surrender of the tragic dimensions of 'cosmic man' in
favour of the imperfect ions of 'men in society' , wit h the ir radical openness
instead of the closed world of tragedy, wit h their recogniti on of the rol e of
chance, and their incl ination to the subversive and irreverent - the fi rst
announcement of the st yle of democracy in Western political history (Combs
and Nimmo, 1996: 9). Indeed, the st yle of democracy is open and ironic,
adverse to system and the seriousness of theory - and whoever wishes to
impose on democracy a high and sublime goal will try unwittingly t o exchange
democracy for an ari stocracy ruled by t he select group of himself and his own
kindred spirits.
But probably the supreme irony of this 'comedy of errors' that democracy
is lies in the fact that democracy needs thi s kind of misconception about
itself (cf. Ankersmit, 1997: 186). We need in democracy the tragic dimen-
sion of people who t ake themselves and their politi cal ideals t ragicall y seri ously,
along with all the misfortunes ari sing from thi s. Without thi s tragic self-
awareness of the citizen and of the politi cian, there would be no material
that could be fed into the machine of democratic sat ire. Thus the basis of
democracy might well be an incompatibil ity of the satire of that political
system itself with the tragic politi cal inspirati on of the indivi dual citizen and
politi cian. If thi s makes sense, it would foll ow t hat the future of our Weste rn
democracies wi ll at least partly depend on our success in carefull y upholding
thi s strange and paradoxical balance between tragedy and satire.
In Pauline Westerman' s recent study of the mi series of natural law philosophy,
she gives an exposit ion of the conceptual inadequacies of that notion. As she
convincingly makes clear, the notion of 'natural law' suggests a degree of
logical coherence, of conceptual hierarchy and a reducibili ty to indubitable first
1'11111 Iplt · ... 111.1 1 I '" , 111l11'k",IV .1\ p,ld ... \\' 1\ II I hi ' 1'1.1 \1 It ,II Ii I 1'1 I II 1,111 I 11 .11.1\ 1"1
OI ... OIIII - pol lll( . .I I l' ; lI lt y_ S i ll ' t l l1· 11· I,llt · lt ·I..Olllllh'IHI ... th"t \\ t ' III •• ", 111 ,11, ' \1 ""
II I till..' Ilotij,\n 01 pulllil;1i :-. tyk lh:1l1 hitllnt o ha!'> IWl'1l tht ' ,,"',. In litH
thl'on:-. ing about pol itk!'>: 'An arti stic style is not to be seen a:-. :1 rL' upL' lor
"how to a portrait ". The term "style" rather denotes:l gcneril l way of
making or doing things .. , For instance, the st yli stic req uirement of unity of
time, place and acti on, whi ch any successful classicist playwright had to
meet, was not mere ly a constraint; it also opened a vast array of possibil ities
t hat would ot herwise have remained unexplored. Style ca n be a source of
creativity' (Westerman, 1997: 32).
We observed above the political creat ivity of democratic politics, and it
seeill s li kely that the notion of polit ical style is idea lly suited for explai ning
thi s creati vity. Thi s polit ic::!l creativity pre-eminently manifests it self in the
creation of a new polit ical reality, new in the sense that it transcends the
more elementary and primary rea liti es of \vhat is in the minds of the indi-
vidua l participants in the domai n of politics. It is a new poli tica l reali ty
beca use it is superimposed upon the more COncrete rea lity of already exist -
ing politi cal desires! ideologies, administrat ive habi ts or mechani sms whose
complex interacti on we havc tri ed to elucidate in terms of Schumann 's
illIlere Still/me. For what is true of Schumann 's i,lIlere Stimme is true as well
of this democrat ic extra, superimposed reality: it ca nnot be 'hea rd' but it ca n
be ' li stened to' and this ca n be done with the same objectivity and accuracy
as what is act uall y 'hea rd'.
Precisely because we still find ourselves here in a kind of indete rminate
limbo between what is already and what is not yet rea lity - obviously the
kind of li mbo in which all creat ivity will preferably look for its proper home-
precisely for this reason! whatever ultimately solidifi es into a poli tica l rea li ty
that will become recognisable to all of us in due time, will mnke here its
first entry into the domai n of poli tics. Thi s poli ti cal hl11ere Stimme is there-
fore the birthplace of all the mechanisms that wi ll keep representative
democracy alive. Dcmocracy di es when thi s political iI/Here Slilllme is smoth-
ered, or when our political ea rs have become unable or unwilling to li st en t o
it anymore.
If we wish to investigat e more closely the peculiar real ity of this political
i,-mere Stimme, the noti on of polit ical style wi ll be our best guide. For polit i-
cal style shares with the reality of the polit ical innere Stimme the capaci t y t o
bridge thi s so enigmatic and Protean gap bet ween what is already and what
wi ll become political reality. In our contemporary democracies, it is onl y in
ter ms of political styl e that the poli tician may become recognisable at all to
the electorat e: Buffon's Ie style, c!es f l'homme meme is pre-eminentl y true of
how the citizen conceives of the poli tician. Not polit ical ideology, neither a
polit ical programme nor polit ical achievement - and it is far frol11 me to
belittl e these things - but polit ica l st yle, therefore, is t he true lrail d'union
bet ween politics and the politician on the one hand and t he electorate
,1 l ltl tilt' tlll / I ' ll \1 111111' 1,,111 ' 1 1'\111111 . 11 ... Ivlt · '" 1111 ' , . IIt ·I'.III\,   . .11 lilt'
I 1.11 \ h 111. 111\ .. \ 1 I I lit , S I 11 11 I t ' l 1.111 , ,>lI II ·d \' \ I I I \'p I , .... \ ' 111 : 1 I 1\ l' \ Iv" It I l I : 11 V II I 1 l' l tlg
III "' " 1·.1t h III   pili I t H .11 ... , \ It · .... tI II' .II 11 1t :1 III wh, 'Il' l hi ' POllll l :.1 party t!l\'
1'1I11l!\I.1 1l ,, 1I1111.lkl · lIh·1I III :-. t ( :lIltIOIl :-' c ll ort:-. to rL' dL'i ine their
10 the \· Il'ltOr.lh· 0 1 \\'ha t ... Illluld, in thL'i r view, he seen as beneficia l and
\. dll ahll · lutun' puhli c goa ls.
Whl' n a new polit ical real ity comes into being it always invol ves the birth
til ;1 new politi cal style. Hence, the political theorist avoiding the notion of
pl)lit ical st yle because he thinks the notion too di fficult or too cllmbersome
\0 use is like somebody who decides that it \"ould be too much of an effort
to learn the language that is used by t he people il111 0ngst whom he lives.
1 A Dutch version or material contained in this chnptcr was published in Pds and tl' Vdde
(l-ds) (2000); another (English) version appeared in AnkNsmit (2002: 133) .
2. Insofar as ethks has an .. mnity with our conscience, with our inner moral C01l\iCl ions and
\\ Ith what practical reason tell s us th"t we !>hould do, we may discern here the unbridgeable gap
Ill'tween the notions or ethics and or st yk·. Tlwre I.oul d he no science or l' thks ror what ought
tu be the st yle or our behaviour.
3. The idyll is seen by Schiller:1s a subvariant or el egy: it occurs wht'n tilt' Il"lural is e"'peri-
l' need as an 'object of joy' (Gegellsttll1d der Frellde) .
-J. Which ha:. tht· important implication that t o representation must he granted the same
l1lltological stat us as things - i.e. 1I0t that of re;l lity. Sec for   Anker:. mit (1994: 90) .
5. For :I number of striking illustrations of this claim, s,'e Robertson (1995). Robertson
to what extent the e"olution of Anglo-Saxon democnlCY fou nd its ( I('arl'st t.'xpres-
in evolutions or political st yle and rhetoric.
Ankersmit , F ( 1994) History lIlIll 'fi.W)()logy: fhe Rise lIIuf Fail 0/ Metaphor. Berkeley: Uni\"('rsity
of California
Ankersmit, F (1997) Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy fJeyolld Fflct mut Ilrlhlt!. Slanrtlrd:
Stanrord Universit )' Press.
Ankersmil, F. (2000) 'The Representation of Experience', Metclphilosophy 31 ( 1- 2): 148-69.
Ankcrsmi t, F (2001) Historical Hepreselltatioll . St:mford: Stan ford Universit y Press.
Ankcrsmit, F. (2002) Po/ilim/ Represelltatioll . Stanford: Stanford Universit y Press.
Combs, lE. and Nimmo, D. (1996) 'I1l e Comedy of Democracy. Westport Cr: Praeger.
Edelman, M. (1971) Politics as Symbolic Actioll . Mass Arollscll and Quiescellce. Chi cago:
Edelman, M. ( 1988) Constructing the Po/itia d Spectacle. Chicago: Uni versity of Chi cago Press.
Feni chct -Pitkin , H. (1 987) Forwlle is (j W OIII CW . Gender (I11t1 Polit ics ill the 11wIIght of Niccolo
Meldliewell;. Berkeley: Uni versity of Cali fornia  
Il arim3n, R. (1995) Political Style. The Artisrry of POUier. Chicago: Uni \'ersit y of Chicago Press.
Montcsquieu, C. de (1973 [1 7481) De {'esprit des lois. Paris: Garnier.
Pels, O. and te Vcldc, H. (cds) (2000) Politieke stij/. Ollel' presellratie ell op/I'ede/l ill de /loliriek .
Amst erdam: Het Spinhuis.
Robertson, A.W. (1 995) The Lmlguage of Democracy. Poli tical Rhetoric i'l lire United SUI/ CS and
Britai", 1790- 1900. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
I{"',I ' II \ ( 1' 1' It I /I /' (
• 'II' \0",, " 1111 ,{'II,'t,I/"'11 ( .I"ll llh l,· , · 1\ 1/\ II" , I I I I '
S I II ' " II, lil \' I .II \, I< .•.•
. \ ," ) "1: I' \PIl [I Hil / ) ' I I/wI 11 .11\,' Imd   h, · 1)1< b t llhl:. III \, /'111" '\ /l 'I/J, /
S I 1111 /.:: 11 1 (,,11.1 I'" 111 1 \hl"l 1 III 17\)(,.)
1',( ' ( I 'JIJ7) 1'111' /)I.HI II"KmlilJ/I oj Narllml L"III n" ,O/ v . 1' I II III,n /" r '.
L('ldl'n/ Nl'w Yurk : Bnll. III/m.
A Dandy in Politi cs
Aesthetic Representation
and Political Style
Re-balancing Ident ity and Difference
in Media Democracy
A week before n,ti ona l election day, on 6 M,y 2002, the Netherla nds ' lost
their political innocence', as many commentators chose to put it. Directly
echoing the post-September II watershed sent iment , it was widely felt that
Dutch democracy 'would never be the same again'. Was this still the
Netherlands' , many asked in profound shock over the first polit ical murder
the country had experienced since the 1672 lynching of the De Witt brothers
in The Hague. The victim oftnis 'un-Dutch' event, Pim Fortuyn, a mi llionnaire
fonner sOciology professor and flamboyant homosexua l, had meteoricall y
risen in the poll s to singlehandedly embarass the self-sati sfied politicia ns of
the ' purple' Left-Liberal coalition by his unprecedented st yle of c,mpy glam-
our, media fl air, and brazen political ext remi sm. Bri efly heading a new
populi st party call ed Leefbaar Nederland (Liveable Net herl ands), and
having won an unexpected landslide vict ory against Labour in t he muni cipal
elections in his home base of Rotterdam, Fortuyn quickly fell out with his
party after declaring that ' Holland was full ' and branding Islam as a ' back-
ward culture'. Establi shing a ball ot li st under his own name, Fortuyn swiftly
managed t o mobi lise large portions of the fl oating anti -immigrat ion and anti-
politi cal protest vote in a remarkably personali sed medi a blitz which took
both the 'old' parties and the opinion pollers by complete surprise. Evidently
heading for a major vi ctory at the national poll s, whi ch could have turned the
Lij st Pim Fortuyn into the largest political grouping and perhaps cat apulted
its leader int o the prime minist erial seat, Fortuyn was gunned down on that
fatefu l Monday by a crazed envi ronmental activi st when leaving a radio
studio in the media town of Hilversum.