Lost in Translation. Being the Problem

Lost in Translation. Being the Problem

Klemeshev A.P.,

Rector, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, AKlemeshev@kantiana.ru

elibrary_id: 250687 |

Ilyin M.V.,

Full Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics; Head of the Center for Advanced Methodologies of Social and Humanitarian Research, Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, mikhaililyin48@gmail.com

elibrary_id: 1332 | ORCID: 0000-0001-6278-374X | RESEARCHER_ID: K-1361-2015

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2019.05.11

For citation:

Klemeshev A.P., Ilyin M.V. Lost in Translation. Being the Problem. – Polis. Political Studies. 2019. No. 5. P. 148-166. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2019.05.11

This article was prepared with the support of the Russian Science Foundation, the project No. 17-18-01536.


The article highlights challenges and responses to communication failures in politics and political science. In this context, the word translation refers to an adequate understanding of each other and oneself in political interactions. By its very nature, it is partial and relative. This ambiguity results from unsocial sociability (ungesellige Geselligkeit) as outlined by Kant, and corresponds to the principle of incompleteness of phenomena that triggers evolution (Deacon). Still, people at large associate many typical dysfunctions and losses in translation with ill will or technical errors rather than fundamental relativity of human communication. They readily endorse the illusion of one-to-one correspondence of phenomena, terms, their sense and reference. The authors examine the nature and parameters of translation and transfer providing examples like Parson’s translation of Weber’s stahlhartes Gehäuse as iron cage, as well as the interpretation of revolution, Europe and Eurasia, governance, polity, politics, policy, and police. Translation and interpretation expounds within fluid interfaces which embroil online political and communicative processes on the one hand and offline institutional and sign systems on the other. The ensuing relativity of translation, interpretation and transfer techniques allows the issue of variability and equivalence of terms and other tools of our communication and understanding to be reconsidered. Finally, the article outlines the format of the series “Lost in Translation”. 

institutions, processes, langue, parole, online, offline, agency, translation, interpretation, one-to-one correspondence, variability of terms, sense, reference.


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Content No. 5, 2019

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