Representation

1st Edition

Johannes Pollak, Christopher Lord

Routledge
Published June 21, 2017
Reference - 622 Pages
ISBN 9781472431127 - CAT# Y253539
Series: The Library of Contemporary Essays in Governance and Political Theory

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Summary

Just thirty years ago, it was widely believed that democracy had triumphed as the only legitimate form of political rule; and that representative democracy was, in turn, the only feasible form of democracy in modern mass societies. Yet, representative democracy is now thought to be in crisis. Populism is, above all, a crisis in representation. Populists question how far the views of the people can ever be authentically represented, least of all by ‘representatives’ made unrepresentative by the very fact of devoting their careers to representation.

The crisis in representation is a double crisis. First, it is a crisis in democratic political systems. How should publics govern themselves as equals if not through representatives they elect to parliaments and governments? And how should they elect representatives to parliaments except through political parties that frame policy choices and select would-be representatives for competitions for the people’s vote? How, indeed, can mass democracy work without filling in the long gaps between competitions for the people’s vote with the more informal representation of civil society interests, and without the daily impertinence of some people claiming to be able to represent the views of others in public debate?

Second, any crisis of representation is one of democratic political thought. As this volume shows, much political thought, ancient and modern, has been shaped by the question of when some can rightfully claim to ‘stand in for’ or ‘speak up for’ others.

If, indeed, representation is in crisis, we need to know what is in crisis. After, then, an introduction setting out the main possibilities and problems of representation, this reader organises core attempts to understand representation into 7 thematic sections. The first on ‘Grasping Representation’ includes several courageous attempts to ‘grasp’ what is notoriously one of the most slippery concepts in the study of politics. The second section on ‘descriptive representation’ brings together discussions of the idea that representatives should somehow resemble the represented. The third section on ‘representation, democracy, accountability and legitimacy’ includes discussions of the relationship between representation and other qualities of democratic government. The fourth section on the ‘representative claim’ turns to one of the most striking innovations in recent debates: namely, that much of what we call representation is itself constructed through the process of some people making claims to represent that are then accepted or rejected by others. A fifth section brings together contributions that attempt to look ‘beyond electoral representation’ to more informal ways in which some people can ‘stand in for’ or ‘speak up’ for others . A final section on ‘challenges to political representation’

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