Colin Crouch recently chided the proliferation of institutionalisms (e.g., historical, normative, ideational, discursive, constructivist) as a growing cottage industry more focused on creating intellectual fiefdoms than extending political theory. In this vein, we can assess the recent constructivist institutionalism developed by Colin Hay out of the ideational and discursive institutionalism efforts of himself, Mark Blyth,Vivian Schmidt, J.L. Campbell and Ove Pedersen. This constructivism reproduces all of the weaknesses of the sociology of knowledge without heeding the contributions of critical theory, poststructuralism, interpretivism (e.g., Mark Bevir), polycontexturality (e.g., Gunther Teubner) or recent economic theory. We are challenged to represent a polycontextural sense of complementarity: as a framework within which seemingly incommensurable and colliding discourses can be regulated if not reconciled (e.g., Robert Boyer). Beyond the constructivists focus on policy-makers application of ideas, there is a need to test the warranted assertions and truth claims inherent within the practices of an institutional regime or legacy, along with the institutionalizing trajectory. This is an unfolding of categorical analysis whose immanent predicate logic within a context of situated agency provides the basis for critique. A more critically oriented institutionalism journeys into the interior of institutions beyond interestedness toward commitedness, toward the endogenous emergence of the argumentative logic of a mode of legitimation. There is a need to align institutionalist analysis with a theory of legitimation grounded in actors valuation of what is right.
There are at least two politically salient senses of "representation"—acting-for-others and portraying-something-as-something. The difference is not just semantic but also logical: relations of representative agency are dyadic (x represents y), while portrayals are triadic (x represents y as z). I exploit this insight to disambiguate constructivism and to improve our theoretical vocabulary for analyzing political representation. I amend Saward's claims-based approach on three points, introducing the "characterization" to correctly identify the elements of representational claims; explaining the "referent" in pragmatic, not metaphysical terms; and differentiating multiple forms of representational activity. This enables me to clarify how the represented can be both prior to representation and constituted by it, and to recover Pitkin's idea that representatives ought to be "responsive" to the represented. These points are pertinent to debates about the role of representatives, the nature of representative democracy, and the dynamics of revolutionary movements.