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The Concept
of Representation
in Contemporary
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Democratic Theory
Nadia Urbinati1 and Mark E. Warren2
1
Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027;
email: nu15@columbia.edu
2
Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
British Columbia V6N 2H7, Canada; email: warren@politics.ubc.ca

Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008. 11:387–412 Key Words


The Annual Review of Political Science is online at democracy, representative democracy, constituency, elections,
http://polisci.annualreviews.org
accountability, deliberation
This article’s doi:
10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053006.190533 Abstract
Copyright  c 2008 by Annual Reviews. Democratic theorists have paid increasing attention to problems
All rights reserved
of political representation over the past two decades. Interest is
1094-2939/08/0615-0387$20.00 driven by (a) a political landscape within which electoral representa-
tion now competes with new and informal kinds of representation;
(b) interest in the fairness of electoral representation, particularly
for minorities and women; (c) a renewed focus on political judgment
within democratic theory; and (d ) a new appreciation that participa-
tion and representation are complementary forms of citizenship. We
review recent innovations within democratic theory, focusing espe-
cially on problems of fairness, constituency definition, deliberative
political judgment, and new, nonelectoral forms of representation.

387
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INTRODUCTION Mansbridge 1999; Young 2000; Dovi 2002).


The turning point was clearly identified by
The topic of political representation has David Plotke, who wrote in 1997 that “the
become increasingly visible and important opposite of representation is not partici-
within contemporary democratic theory for pation. The opposite of representation is
two reasons. The first is a disjunction between exclusion. And the opposite of participation
the standard accounts of democratic repre- is abstention. . . . Representation is not an
sentation, focused primarily on territorially unfortunate compromise between an ideal of
based electoral representation, and an increas- direct democracy and messy modern realities.
ingly complex political terrain, which is less Representation is crucial in constituting
confined within state territoriality, more plu- democratic practices” (Plotke 1997, p. 19;
ralized, and increasingly dependent on infor- see also Urbinati 2000). In addition, demo-
Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008.11:387-412. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org

mal negotiation and deliberation to generate cratic theorists are increasingly appreciating
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political legitimacy. These developments are the contributions of representation to the


driving renewed interest in the impact of elec- formation of public opinion and judgment,
toral representation on broad patterns of in- as well at its role in constituting multiple
clusion and exclusion (Lijphart 1999; Powell pathways of social influence within and often
2000, 2004), as well as in the new forms of rep- against the state. (Habermas 1989 [1962],
resentation that are rapidly evolving in non- 1996; Ankersmit 2002; Urbinati 2005, 2006).
electoral domains such as administrative pol- Importantly, these reassessments are leading
icy development (Stephan 2004, Brown 2006, an increasing number of democratic theorists
Fung 2006a), civil society advocacy (Alcoff both to reengage problems of electoral design
1991, Warren 2001, Strolovitch 2006), and (Beitz 1989, James 2004, Thompson 2004,
global civil society (Keck & Sikkink 1998, Rehfeld 2005) and to think about democratic
Anheier et al. 2004, Grant & Keohane 2005, representation beyond the ballot (Saward
Held & Koenig-Archibugi 2005). Here we 2006a,b; Warren 2008).
limit our attention to recent developments in We review the concept of representation
democratic theory, which has been as much from the perspective of recent democratic the-
affected by these developments as other areas ory. In the first section, we list the political and
of political science. social reasons for rethinking democratic rep-
The second reason is indigenous to demo- resentation. In the second section, we review
cratic theory, which has tended to follow Jean- the background in democratic theory. In the
Jacques Rousseau in assuming that represen- third section, we comment on the develop-
tative democracy is, at best, an instrumental ments that are sending democratic theorists
substitute for stronger forms of democracy back to “first things”—the nature of political
(Pateman 1976, Barber 1984). Until recently, representation itself. Next, we argue that con-
participatory and deliberative democrats paid stituency definition, long ignored in theories
little attention to political representation, of representation, is among the most funda-
leaving the topic to neo-Schumpeterian mental of first things because it establishes
theorists who viewed democracy as primarily the frame—the inclusions and exclusions—
about the selection and organization of within which issues are decided. From this
political elites (Sartori 1987, Manin 1997; cf. perspective, we can appreciate the renewed
Kateb 1992). This consensus division of labor interest in representative institutions within
began to unravel about 15 years ago at the democratic theory, discussed in the fifth sec-
hands of those interested in broad patterns tion. Last, we consider emerging nonelectoral
of inclusions and exclusions in political forms of representation: new citizen forums
representation, particularly of minorities and and decision-making bodies, representative
women (Phillips 1995, 1998; Williams 1998; claims by civil society and advocacy groups,

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and other “voice entrepreneurs,” for example. The complexities of the principal-agent
Nonelectoral forms of representation, we be- relationship at the core of the standard ac-
lieve, are increasingly important to expand- count are well recognized (Pitkin 1967). The
ing and deepening democracy. But these de- translation of votes into representation, for
velopments challenge the existing conceptual example, is mediated by varying electoral sys-
and normative resources of democratic the- tems with more or less exclusionary charac-
ory. Democratic theorists need to develop new teristics. Parties, interest groups, and corpo-
tools and critical analyses that are sensitive to ratist organizations set agendas, while public
these new forms of political influence and in- spheres, civil society advocacy, and the me-
direct forms of power. dia form preferences and mold public opinion,
as do debate and leadership within legislative
bodies themselves (Habermas 1989). In addi-
THE CHANGING POLITICAL
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tion, the principal-agent relationship between


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LANDSCAPE OF DEMOCRATIC voters and representatives is notoriously diffi-


REPRESENTATION cult to maintain, for numerous reasons rang-
Representative democracy as we know it today ing from information deficits to the corrup-
evolved from two key sources. First, during tion of representative relationships (Bobbio
the twentieth century, the expansion of the 1987, Gargarella 1998).
franchise transformed liberal, constitutional These complexities remain, but they have
regimes into mass democracies. Second, when been overtaken by new realities such that
structured through constitutionalism, elec- the very formulation of problems within
toral representation enabled a dynamic, if of- the standard account is increasingly inade-
ten fractious, balance between the rule of quate. Perhaps the most significant of these
elites and the social and political democra- developments has been the dislocation, plu-
tization of society, with political parties dis- ralization, and redefinition of constituencies.
placing parliaments as the primary loci of The central feature of the standard account
representation. Until relatively recently, these is that constituencies are defined by territory;
two sources molded what we call, following individuals are represented insofar as they are
D. Castiglione & M.E. Warren (unpublished inhabitants of a place (Rehfeld 2005). Begin-
manuscript), the “standard account” of repre- ning with the formation of the modern state,
sentative democracy. territorial residence became the fundamental
The standard account has four main fea- condition for political representation—a
tures. First, representation is understood as condition more inclusive than status- and
a principal agent relationship, in which the corporate-based representation. Indeed,
principals—constituencies formed on a ter- territory has had an important historical
ritorial basis—elect agents to stand for and relationship to political equality that carried
act on their interests and opinions, thus sep- over into modern times. In ancient Athens,
arating the sources of legitimate power from Cleisthenes changed the condition for count-
those who exercise that power. Second, elec- ing as an Athenian citizen from family and
toral representation identifies a space within clan identity to demes or village residence
which the sovereignty of the people is identi- (Hansen 1993). In this way, Cleisthenes
fied with state power. Third, electoral mecha- transformed the bare fact of residence into a
nisms ensure some measure of responsiveness sufficient condition for equal power-sharing,
to the people by representatives and political and laid the basis for the modern conception
parties who speak and act in their name. Fi- of constituency.
nally, the universal franchise endows electoral Yet territoriality, though historically essen-
representation with an important element of tial to the evolution of democratic represen-
political equality. tation, identifies only one set of ways in which

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individuals are involved in, or affected by, col- at channeling market forces and incentives, as
lective structures and decisions. Issues such as are civil society organizations. In many cases,
migration, global trade, and environment, for these developments dramatically shift the lo-
example, are extraterritorial; they are not con- cus of collective decisions away from state-
tained by any existing territorially organized centric models of planning—those that can
polity (Benhabib 2004, Gould 2004, Held gather, as it were, sovereignty from the peo-
& Koenig-Archibugi 2005, Bohman 2007). ple in order to act in their name—and toward
Other issues are nonterritorial, particularly governance models. These issue-based and
those involving identity, such as religion, policy-driven networks of government actors
ethnicity, nationalism, professional identity, and stakeholders are often more effective than
recreation, gender identity, and many social bureaucracies accountable to legislatures, but
movements. Such nonterritorial interests are they lack formal legitimacy and clear repre-
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not new to democratic theorists. The main sentative accountability to those affected by
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object of disagreement in making and inter- decisions.


preting the democratic constitution of the The landscape of democratic representa-
Weimar Republic, for example, was whether tion is also clouded by the growing complexity
representation should represent individuals or of issues, which increasingly strains the pow-
corporate interests. In modern constitutional ers of representative agents, and thus their ca-
democracies, however, the older corporatist pacities to stand for and act on the interests
views of parliaments and representation have of those they represent. There is the familiar
given way to the representation of individ- technical and scientific complexity that comes
uals whose only commonality is residence. with the vast amounts of information and high
Thus, legislatures attend to nonresidential levels of technology involved in most pub-
constituencies only indirectly—not because lic decisions (Zolo 1992, Brown 2006, Beck
citizens have equal shares of power assigned 1997), which is often compounded by the
by territory, but rather because pressure and political complexity that comes with multi-
advocacy groups can organize territory-based ple and overlapping constituencies (Andeweg
votes along nonterritorial lines (Dahl 1956, 2003).
1971; cf. Mansbridge 2003). Other venues As a consequence of these developments,
have emerged to represent other kinds of con- the standard account has been stretched to the
stituencies. The world is now populated with a breaking point. Among the most fundamen-
very large number of transnational, extraterri- tal of problems, ironically, is the very element
torial, and nonterritorial actors, ranging from that ushered in democratic representation—
relatively formalized institutions built out residency-based electoral representation. The
of territorial units (such as the United Na- claim of any state to represent its citizens—
tions, the World Bank, the European Union, its claim to sovereignty on behalf of the
and numerous treaty organizations), to a people—is contestable, not because states do
multitude of nongovernmental organizations, not encompass peoples, but because collective
transnational movements, associations, and issues only partially admit of this kind of con-
social networks (Anheier et al. 2004, Saward stituency definition. Electoral representation
2006a), each making representative claims and continues to provide an ultimate reference
serving representative functions. for state power. But whereas Burke (1968, cf.
Closely related, the sites of collective de- Manin 1997) imagined that representatives
cision making are increasingly differentiated. could monopolize considered opinion about
In the developed democracies, markets and public purpose through the use of delibera-
market-oriented entities are likely to con- tive judgment, representative assemblies to-
tinue to function as the dynamic sources of day must reach ever further to gather politi-
change. Governments are increasingly agile cal legitimacy for their decisions. Judging by

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the declining trust in governments generally clude anything definitively” (Rousseau 1978
and legislative bodies in particular, represen- [1762] p. 198). Rousseau thus confined repre-
tative claims based on territorial constituen- sentation to the terms of principal-agent del-
cies (under the standard model) continue to egation while stripping the delegate of any
weaken (Pharr & Putnam 2000, Dalton 2004). role in forming the political will of the people.
Electoral representation remains crucial in In legal usage, Rousseau understood political
constituting the will of the people, but the representation in terms of “imperative man-
claims of elected officials to act in the name date”: the delegate operates under a fiduciary
of the people are increasingly segmented by contract that allows the principal (the citizens)
issues and subject to broader contestation to temporarily grant an agent their power to
and deliberation by actors and entities that take specified actions but does not delegate
likewise make representative claims. Politi- the will to make decisions, which is retained
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cal judgments that were once linked to state by the principal.


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sovereignty through electoral representation Rousseau’s distinction between legitimate


are now much more widely dispersed, and government (or democratic government, in
the spaces for representative claims and dis- contemporary terminology) and representa-
courses are now relatively wide open (Urbinati tion built upon discourses with quite different
2006). In complex and broadly democratic so- historical roots. Democracy originated as
cieties, representation is a target of competing direct democracy in ancient Greek city-states
claims. whereas representation originated in the
medieval Christian church and the feudal re-
lationships encompassed within the Holy Ro-
THE NEW CONCEPTUAL man Empire, its monarchies, municipalities,
DOMAINS OF DEMOCRATIC and principalities (Pitkin 2004). In modern
THEORY discourse, however, the concept of political
Until recently, democratic theorists were not representation evolved beyond this distinc-
well positioned to respond to these develop- tion, becoming something more complex and
ments, having divided their labors between promising than the Rousseauian distinction
those who work within the standard account between the (democratic) will of the people
of representation and those concerned with and the (aristocratic) judgments of political
participation and inclusion. The division of elites. Developing along with the constitu-
labor followed the channels dug by Rousseau tionalization of state powers, representation
well over two centuries ago, which identi- came to indicate the complex set of relation-
fied res publica with direct self-government ships that result in activating the “sovereign
and representative government with an aris- people” well beyond the formal act of electoral
tocratic form of power. The English people, authorization. After Rousseau, representative
Rousseau famously claimed, are free only in politics is increasingly understood as having
the moment of their vote, after which they the potential to unify and connect the plural
return to “slavery,” to be governed by the will forms of association within civil society, in
of another. “Sovereignty,” Rousseau wrote, part by projecting the horizons of citizens
“cannot be represented for the same reason beyond their immediate attachments, and in
that it cannot be alienated. It consists essen- part by provoking citizens to reflect on future
tially in the general will, and the will cannot be perspectives and conflicts in the process of
represented. The will is either itself or some- devising national politics (see Hegel 1967).
thing else; no middle ground is possible. The Political representation can function to
deputies of the people, therefore, neither are focus without permanently solidifying the
nor can be its representatives; they are nothing sovereignty of the people, while transforming
else but its commissaries. They cannot con- their presence from formally sanctioning

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(will) into political influence (political in addition to voting, owing to the porous
judgment). And importantly, political repre- design of liberal democracies. Participatory
sentation can confer on politics an idealizing democratic theorists writing in the 1960s and
dimension that can overcome the limits 1970s pointed out that the many channels of
of territoriality and formal citizenship on representation in pluralist democracies were,
political deliberation. in fact, filled by those with the most re-
Rousseau’s formulations, however, failed sources, particularly education and wealth.
to shed light on these transformative poten- Pulling ideals from Aristotle, Rousseau, Marx,
tials of political representation. Although he J.S. Mill, and Dewey, participatory democrats
believed representatives to be necessary, he focused instead on those features of democ-
held to electoral selection rather than lottery racy most immediately connected with self-
or rotation—mechanisms traditionally asso- determination and self-development, while
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ciated with democracy. Whatever his inno- accepting Rousseau’s view of representation
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vations in other areas of democratic theory, as essentially nondemocratic (Pateman 1976,


with respect to representation he restated Macpherson 1977, Barber 1984; cf. Young
Montesquieu’s idea that lottery is democratic 2000, Urbinati 2006).
whereas election is aristocratic. He concluded, Communitarians within democratic the-
with Aristotle, that whereas all positions re- ory, borrowing from classical republicanism,
quiring only good sense and the basic senti- have sometimes overlapped with participa-
ment of justice should be open to all citizens, tory democrats owing to their focus on active
positions requiring “special talents” should be citizenship. Although classical republicanism
filled by election or performed by the few focused on institutional design—particularly
(Rousseau 1978, see Urbinati 2006). checks and balances—these strains were ab-
The contemporary view that representa- sorbed by the standard account of represen-
tive government is a mix of aristocracy and tation, leaving contemporary communitarians
democratic authorization is the late child to focus on closeness rather than distance, and
of Rousseau’s model. “Realist” and “elite” direct engagement rather than indirectness
democrats in the mold of Schumpeter (1976), (Arendt 2006; Wolin 2004; Held 1996, ch. 2).
Sartori (1965), and Luhmann (1990) repli- Deliberative democratic theory, the third
cated Rousseau’s view that representation is and most recent wave of contemporary demo-
essentially aristocratic, while viewing demo- cratic theory, is centered on inclusive politi-
cratic participation in political judgment as cal judgment. From this perspective, the stan-
utopian. Modern societies—with their bu- dard account of representative democracy is
reaucratic concentrations of power, their suspect for its thin understanding of political
scale, and their complexity—dictate that cit- will formation. The standard account, with
izens are mostly passive, mobilized period- its emphasis on elections, pressure groups,
ically by elections (see also Bobbio 1987, and political parties, suggested that politi-
Sartori 1987, Zolo 1992; cf. Manin 1997). cal judgments are, in effect, aggregated pref-
Although elite and realist democratic theo- erences. Deliberative theories of democracy
rists have been widely criticized within demo- were spearheaded by Habermas in the mid-
cratic theory, it has not been for their account 1980s and rapidly followed by parallel theories
of representation as periodic selection, but focused on judgment: Gutmann & Thompson
rather for their portrayal of citizens as pas- (1996), Pettit (1999a), the later Rawls (2005),
sive. Pluralist democratic theory, originated Richardson (2003), and others turned their at-
by Truman (1951) and Dahl (1956) in the tention to the formation of public opinion and
1950s, emphasized the many ways in which judgment, the institutionalization of deliber-
citizens of contemporary democracies can ation, and the relationship between inclusion
push their interests onto the political agenda and deliberation. Problems of representation,

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however, were bypassed by several strains of of citizens, representation is at best a surro-


deliberative democratic theory, either because gate form of participation for citizens who are
deliberation was conceived within a participa- physically absent.
tory framework (Cohen 1996) or because it Nonetheless, Pitkin sketched out the
was conceived within already established in- generic features of political representation in
stitutions (Rawls 2005). constitutional democracy. For representatives
For others, such as Habermas (1996), how- to be “democratic,” she argued, (a) they must
ever, problems of representation reappeared be authorized to act; (b) they must act in a way
in potentially productive ways. First in The that promotes the interests of the represented;
Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere and (c) people must have the means to hold
(1989 [1962]) and then more completely in their representatives accountable for their ac-
Between Facts and Norms (1996), Habermas tions. Although Pitkin understood these fea-
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cast representative institutions as mediating tures within the context of electoral democ-
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between state and society via public spheres of racy, they can in fact vary over a wide range of
judgment, such that representation is incom- contexts and meanings, as we suggest below
plete without the deliberative attentiveness of (D. Castiglione & M.E. Warren, unpublished
citizens mediated by public spheres, and the manuscript).
reflective transmission of public deliberations Pitkin did not, however, inquire more
into the domain of representative institutions. broadly into the kind of political participa-
Habermas was interested not only in the tion that representation brings about in a
correlation between judgments emanating democratic society. Nor were her initial for-
from the public sphere and institutionalized mulations further debated or developed. In-
representation, but also in those moments of stead, they stood as the last word on repre-
disjunction that generate extraparliamentary sentation within democratic theory for three
forms of representation, particularly through decades, until the appearance of Manin’s The
new social movements and other kinds of Principles of Representative Government (1997).
civil society associations. Importantly, these Manin combined an elitist-realist approach
creative disjunctions are intrinsic to the to democracy with a deliberative approach,
functioning of representative democracy. In arguing that representative government is a
this way, Habermas opened a window on unique form of government owing to the con-
representation beyond the standard account. stitution of deliberative politics through elec-
Direct attention to representation within tion. Manin’s work departed from the stan-
contemporary democratic theory has come dard model by focusing on the deliberative
from three other sources as well. The most qualities of representative institutions. But in
broadly recognized of these, Pitkin’s now clas- other respects, he replicated the standard divi-
sic The Concept of Representation (1967), came sion between democracy and representation.
from within the standard account itself. Pitkin In the spirit of Montesquieu, Manin viewed
provided a comprehensive theory of represen- elections as a means of judging the charac-
tation, primarily within electoral contexts, just ters of rulers. The value of democratic elec-
when participatory democracy had captured tion is that the many are better than the few
the imaginations of progressive democrats. at recognizing competent individuals, though
Indeed, Pitkin herself turned to the partici- worse than the few at acting competently
patory paradigm shortly after publication, re- (Manin 1997, ch. 4). But electoral suffrage in
turning to the topic only to note that the al- itself, in Manin’s view, produced no change in
liance between democracy and representation the practice and institution of representation,
is “uneasy” owing to their distinct genealo- which are substantially the same today as they
gies (Pitkin 1967, p. 2; Pitkin 2004; Williams were when few citizens had the right to vote.
2000). If democracy is based on the presence Representative government is inevitably an

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elected form of aristocracy because it discrim- perspectives into political institutions (see also
inates among citizens and excludes some from Guinier 1994, Gould 1996, Mansbridge 1999,
the decision-making process. As de Malberg Young 2000, Dovi 2002).
(1920, p. 208) put it, the very purpose of rep- Within this literature, Williams’ (1998)
resentative selection is to form an aristocratic Voice, Trust, and Memory most directly en-
regime. On this line of thinking, it follows that gaged the issue of marginalized groups in
discourses that implicate representative insti- the language of representation, framing all
tutions as exclusionary are simply incoherent. of the classic issues of representation within
Such institutions cannot be something other the terms of the contemporary debate. “Lib-
than they are, namely, aristocratic entities that eral representation” of the kind descended
are at best constituted and contained by demo- from Locke, though promising formal equal-
cratic elections. Thus, in this account, parlia- ity, systematically underrepresents the histor-
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mentary sovereignty can be seen as an elec- ically marginalized. By treating individuals


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toral transmutation of Rousseau’s doctrine of as individuals rather than as situated mem-


the general will of the people, which, para- bers of groups, Williams argues, liberal ac-
doxically, transforms the people into a passive counts of representation fail to conceptual-
body, with periodic capacities for selection but ize patterns of disadvantage that are based
not voice (De la Bigne de Villeneuve 1929– in group situations, and are often replicated
1931, p. 32). within representative institutions. The lib-
Important though these debates about ac- eral account (at least in its Lockean form)
tive versus passive representative inclusion assumes a trustee relationship based on con-
were, they glossed over the glaring fact that vergent majority interests, which does not in
many groups within the established democra- fact exist for disadvantaged groups. When
cies lacked even passive inclusion. Although such assumptions legitimate electoral sys-
earlier participatory critics of the standard ac- tems that simply aggregate votes based on
count had turned away from representation, territorial constituency—particularly in the
by the early 1990s, theorists began to focus form of single-member districts—they serve
on the representative exclusion of marginalized to justify and stabilize existing patterns of
groups—particularly those based on gender, disadvantage. For this reason, Williams ar-
ethnicity, and race—from the centers of po- gues, we need to think beyond principal-agent
litical power. The initial questions were about models of representation in which principals
injustices in the form of exclusion. But these are presumed to be formally equal individ-
questions went to the very heart of not only uals. We need to understand representation
the meanings of representation, but also its as a relationship, mediated by group histo-
mechanisms and functions. Kymlicka (1995) ries and experiences, through which relevant
argued for group representation within the in- constituencies—particularly those related to
stitutions of representative democracy, noting fairness—come into existence. Finally, fair
that the representation of individuals qua indi- representation requires some relationship of
viduals is not sufficient to self-development, as trust between individuals and representatives,
self-identity depends on group relationships based on shared experiences, perspectives, and
and resources. Phillips (1995) argued in The interests, and this is demonstrably not present
Politics of Presence that the “politics of ideas”— for historically disadvantaged groups within
one in which interests, policy positions, and residence-based systems of representation.
preferences are represented by agents within Still, the relationship between individual
political institutions—fails to grasp that right- and group representation with respect to fair-
ful inclusions require that diversities within ness remains ambiguous in Williams’ argu-
society have represented presence, embodied ment. Disadvantages in society generate ten-
within representatives who bring distinctive sions between the formal equalities that lend

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legitimacy to representative institutions, and WHEN IS REPRESENTATION


their results, which will often fail to reflect “DEMOCRATIC”?
or address issues related to systematic group If democratic representation is to be under-
disadvantages. Clearly, for minorities whose stood as more than a division of labor be-
claims consistently fail to be present within tween political elites and citizens, we need to
political institutions, representation based on understand representation as an intrinsic part
formal equality also fails basic fairness. Yet the of what makes democracy possible. To do so,
strongest historical argument for fair repre- we must distinguish between generic norms
sentation has not been based on group advan- of democracy and the institutions and prac-
tage or disadvantage, but rather the propor- tices through which the norms are realized.
tional representation of individual interests. If Much democratic theory has moved in this
all individuals have an equal claim to represen- direction, conceiving democracy as any set of
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tation, their representatives should have pres- arrangements that instantiates the principle
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ence in representative institutions in propor- that all affected by collective decisions should
tion to the numbers of individuals who hold have an opportunity to influence the outcome
interests they wish to be represented. Indeed, (see, e.g., Habermas 1996, p. 107; Dahl 1998,
as Mill argued, nonproportional counting as pp. 37–38; Held 1996, p. 324; Young 2000,
occurs in majoritarian systems is a violation p. 23; Gould 2004, pp. 175–78). Although
of quantitative fairness, whereas proportional there are important variations in the norma-
representation “secures a representation, in tive presuppositions embedded in this prin-
proportion to numbers, of every division of ciple, most democratic theorists hold that
the electoral body: not two great parties (a) individuals are morally and legally equal
alone” (Mill 1991, p. 310). Altering represen- and (b) individuals are equally capable of
tative systems to increase their sensitivity to autonomy with respect to citizenship—that
historical group disadvantage may trade off is, conscious self-determination—all other
against the fairness embodied in quantitative things begin equal. It follows that collective
proportionality, a tension that continues to decisions affecting self-determination should
deserve the attention of democratic theorists. include those affected.
Although Williams’ argument was fo- The advantage of such a norm—call it
cused on representing historically disadvan- democratic autonomy or simply collective
taged groups, she built on the emerging self-government—is that it enables us to avoid
discourse of group representation to cast po- reduction of “democracy” to any particular
litical representation as fundamentally about kind of institution or decision-making mech-
inclusion and exclusion—that is, about the anism. It allows us to assess emerging in-
basic problems of democratic theory and stitutions and imagine new ones by asking
practice (cf. Phillips 1995, ch. 7). At the whether they fulfill the norm of democratic
same time, the strain of thinking origi- autonomy—a question we need to be able to
nated by Manin—that focusing on the rela- ask, for example, of the many transnational
tionship between representation and politi- regimes that increasingly affect the lives of
cal judgment—increasingly intersected with individuals in ways the standard account of
deliberative democracy, drawing the “aristo- representative democracy cannot encompass,
cratic” approach to representation closer to nor even conceive.
democratic problems of discursive inclusion At the same time, without the relatively
(Plotke 1997, Young 2000, Ankersmit 2002, straightforward conceptual apparatus of the
Urbinati 2005, cf. Williams 2000). Together, standard account, we need to formulate the
these lineages are now producing a new wave concept of democratic representation with a
of democratic theory. rigor sufficient to identify and assess what

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ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

has become a rich domain of representative elected representatives, nongovernmental or-


relationships—a concern that increasingly ganizations, lay citizens, panels, committees,
drives the new literature (see, e.g., Williams and other entities. A wide variety of goods may
1998; Mansbridge 2003; Rehfeld 2006; be formulated and represented: preferences,
Rubenstein 2007; D. Castiglione, A. Rehfeld, interests, identities, values. And, in principle,
M.E. Warren, et al., unpublished manuscript). a wide variety of authorization and account-
We owe an initial formal specification ability mechanisms are possible. Along with
to Pitkin, who—despite misgivings about elections, the possibilities include voice, de-
formalizations—observed that democratic re- liberation, exit, oversight, and trust. This vari-
sponsiveness includes, in one way or another, ety of relationships, entities, and mechanisms
(a) authorization of a representative by those is close, we think, to encompassing the nu-
who would be represented, and (b) account- merous kinds of representative relationships
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ability of the representative to those repre- that inhabit contemporary democracies. Each
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sented. Building on Pitkin, D. Castiglione & should be parsed out and specified both in its
M.E. Warren (unpublished manuscript; see own terms and in terms of its role within the
also Rehfeld 2006) characterize these rela- broader political ecology.
tionships as follows:
1. Political representation involves repre- CONSTITUENCY DEFINITION
sentative X being authorized by con-
Because it defines the initial terms of au-
stituency Y to act with regard to good
thorization and thus the nature of inclusion
Z. Authorization means that there are
in representative relationships, the concept
procedures through which Y selects or
of constituency is receiving new attention.
directs X with respect to Z. Ultimate re-
As Rehfeld (2005; see also Burnheim 1989,
sponsibility for the actions or decisions
Pogge 2002) points out, the idea that con-
of X rests with Y.
stituencies should be defined by territorial dis-
2. Political representation involves repre-
tricts has been all but unquestioned until very
sentative X being held accountable to
recently, although it has long been recognized
constituency Y with regard to good Z.
that initial decisions about who is included in
Accountability means that X provides,
(or excluded from) “the people” constituted
or could provide, an account of his or
the domain of democracy (Dahl 1989, Held
her decisions or actions to Y with re-
1996).
spect to Z, and that Y has a sanction
But there is an even more fundamental
over X with regard to Z.
issue. For the most part, the project of
These elements are generic; they specify democratizing “democracies” has been con-
only that a democratic relationship of rep- ceived as a matter of progressively including
resentation is one of empowered inclusion more classes of individuals within territorial
of Y in the representations of X with re- communities. But no matter how universal
spect to Z. Under this formula, the individuals these inclusions, when represented geograph-
or groups who are represented are not pas- ically, the people are only a “demos” insofar
sive. There are points at which they assent to as their primary interests and identities are
be represented, and the practices of assent— geographical in nature. Nongeographical
including communication—typically require constituencies—those emerging from race,
multiple kinds of participation. For their part, ethnicity, class, gender, environment, global
if representatives are democratic, they are re- trade, and so on—are represented only inso-
sponsive to those they would represent, with far as they intersect with the circumstances
respect to particular goods. A wide variety of location, producing only an accidental
of actors may potentially fit these criteria: relationship between democratic autonomy

396 Urbinati · Warren


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(particularly the distributions of opportunities tion are highest for disadvantaged groups, as
necessary for self-determination) and forms suggested above, the theoretical point cuts
of representation (Bohman 2007; cf. Gould even more broadly and deeply, as suggested
2004, Held & Koenig-Archibugi 2005). by Fraser’s formulation: Representation is a
More generally, issues of justice raised by dimension of justice.
representation are issues of isegoria, or the But territory is not entirely destiny, even
equal chance each citizen should have to when it is the starting point for constituency
have his or her voice heard (Dworkin 2000, definition as well as the residence-based
pp. 194–98). “Democratic representation is distribution of one vote to every citizen. The
fair or just representation insofar as it involves history of race-based districting in the United
issues of advocacy and representativity; is- States can be understood as attempts to mold
sues of a meaningful presence, not simply geographical constituencies in ways that en-
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presence alone, in the game of discord and compass nongeographical issues, and to do so
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agreement that is democracy” (Urbinati 2006, through the inclusion of racial minorities in
p. 42). Fraser (2007, pp. 313–14) has formu- decision-making bodies. Quotas and reserved
lated the relationship between representation seats also compensate for the inflexibilities
and justice quite precisely (see also Williams of geography, although each arrangement
1998, Fraser 2005, Rehfeld 2005, Saward comes with costs to other dimensions of
2006a): representation (Guinier 1994; Williams
1998, chs. 3, 7; James 2004). Functional role
[R]epresentation furnishes the stage on adjustments, even if ad hoc, may sometime
which struggles over distribution and recog- compensate. Mansbridge (2003) notes that
nition are played out. Establishing criteria empirical political scientists increasingly
of political membership, it tells us who is identify forms of representation that are not
included, and who excluded, from the cir- based on standard “promissory” mechanisms,
cle of those entitled to a just distribution whereby candidates make promises to voters
and reciprocal recognition. . . . Representa- and are then judged in subsequent elections
tion, accordingly, constitutes a third, politi- by the results. In “surrogate representa-
cal dimension of justice, alongside the (eco- tion,” for example, a representative claims
nomic) dimension of redistribution and the a constituency beyond his or her electoral
(cultural) dimension of recognition. district, as when Barney Frank (a member
of the US House of Representatives from
From this perspective, the equality en- Massachusetts) represents gays beyond his
sured by universal suffrage within nations is, district, or Bill Richardson (Governor of New
simply, equality with respect to one of the Mexico) represents Latinos beyond his state.
very many dimensions that constitute “the These functional adjustments testify not just
people.” Thus, from a normative perspec- to the inadequacies of territorial constituency,
tive, geography-based constituency definition but also to its malleability. A key challenge
introduces an arbitrary criterion of inclu- for democratic theorists is to imagine how
sion/exclusion right at the start. Exclusions this malleability might be harnessed beyond
work not on people, who are, after all, univer- the borders of nation-states.
sally included through residency-based fran-
chise, but rather on issues, since residency-
based constituencies define residency-based RETHINKING ELECTORAL
interests as most worthy of political conver- REPRESENTATION
sation and decision—an effect that is arbi- Electoral democracy is that subset of rep-
trary from the perspective of justice. Although resentative relationships in which represen-
the costs of territorial constituency defini- tatives are authorized through election to

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ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

represent the citizens of a constituency to act plains why many states seek to increase judges’
on behalf of their interests, and then are held independence by declaring elections to be
accountable in subsequent elections. These nonpartisan (Thompson 1987), and certainly
relationships have been examined and reex- explains why higher courts are insulated from
amined by political scientists during the post- direct representative accountability. In the
war period (e.g., Eulau & Karps 1977). What European case, however, the democratic le-
is new is the reemergence of electoral repre- gitimacy of judges is borrowed entirely from
sentation as a topic within democratic theory. representative bodies that create the law, and
judgment is viewed as limited to the applica-
tion of law. In this way, European constitu-
Constitutional Design tions preserve the democratic element of rep-
Most fundamentally, electoral representation resentation within the judiciary, but at the cost
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is established and molded by constitutional of conceiving judges’ powers of judgment as


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design—that is, the way in which political the application of rules.


institutions form and formulate the patterns The broader implication of this judicial
of inclusion to which they are subject. Again, example is that the ways in which constitu-
this is an issue with an old pedigree. Contem- tions assign responsibility and structure ac-
porary interest is found primarily within the countability affect representatives’ capacities
field of comparative politics—most notably, for judgment. Elections establish the nonin-
in debates about the democratic merits of dependence of the representative from the
presidential versus parliamentary forms of represented in principle, although in practice,
government. Here we highlight renewed in- representative institutions require enough au-
terest within democratic theory, particularly tonomy to carry out their political functions,
in the impact of constitutional assignments of which will require bodies that can engage in
responsibility on the capacities of representa- deliberative political judgments (Bybee 1998).
tives for deliberation and political judgment. Accordingly, most constitutions forbid imper-
Most generally, constitutions provide two ative mandate. But because political represen-
concurrent forms of responsibility, one demo- tation can only exist in the juridical form of
cratic (through elections) and the other hi- a mandate that is not legally bounded, some
erarchical (appointment by superior organs other form of mandate is needed to check rep-
of political power). The relationship be- resentatives, which is why almost all demo-
tween representation and political judgment is cratic constitutions delimit the responsibility
molded by choices between these forms. Con- of the representatives.
sider, for example, the quite different ways in
which the US and European constitutions lo-
cate the positions of judges, the clearest ex- Electoral System Design
ample of representatives assigned particular The central feature of democratic legitimacy,
responsibilities of judgment. In the United of course, resides in the electoral system.
States, many local and state judges are elected When we vote, we do two things at once: We
just like any other political representative and contribute to forming a government or oppo-
are therefore directly responsible to the peo- sition, and we seek representation of our po-
ple (see Kelsen 1999). In Europe, the judge is sitions and preferences. This means that elec-
accountable only to the law and must not defer tions are not just a race that some win at the
to the opinions of the people (Friedrich 1963, expense of others, but a way of participating
Kelsen 1992). In the US case, the role of the in the creation of the representative body, as
judge as representative of law often clashes is suggested by Plotke’s (1997) argument that
with the political responsiveness required of the opposite of representation is not partici-
an elected representative—which perhaps ex- pation but exclusion.

398 Urbinati · Warren


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Although comparative analysis is beyond systems—particularly municipal systems—is


the scope of this essay (cf. Lijphart 1999, now back on the table (Guinier 1994).
Powell 2000), it is worth noting here that dif- Electoral systems that produce more inclu-
ferent electoral systems empower this kind sion may have costs to one feature of repre-
of participation quite differently, primarily by sentation. They often produce coalition gov-
structuring the inclusiveness of the initial au- ernments that can diffuse accountability, as
thorization and the strength of vote-based ac- party platforms that were authorized by voters
countability (Urbinati 2006). The key design are subsequently compromised for purposes
choice is between electoral systems based on of governing. Likewise, because they separate
single-member plurality (SMP) districts and powers, presidential systems are often said to
those that seek proportional representation dampen responsiveness to citizens and diffuse
(PR) through multi-member districts (Farrell accountability (Dahl 2003). In contrast, par-
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2001, Przeworski et al. 1999, Powell 2004). liamentary arrangements based on SMP tend
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From the perspective of representing res- to provide citizens with stronger ex post ac-
idence, it is worth noting that PR systems countability. These systems authorize govern-
are inherently less geographical than SMP. ing majorities, which are then clearly respon-
Within the boundaries of a district (which may sible for governing as long as they retain the
be the size of the entire state, as in the cases confidence of majority party members of the
of Israel and the Netherlands), voters deter- legislature.
mine their constituency at the time of the vote It is not clear, however, that inclusiveness
(Duverger & Sartori 1988, Rehfeld 2005). In and accountability necessarily trade off against
addition, because PR enables representation one another, given the variety of possible
at lower thresholds (depending on the num- accountability mechanisms (Warren 2008).
ber of representatives within each district), PR Some of these other forms of accountabil-
systems tend to include a broader range of in- ity are deliberative in nature, and depend on
terests and identities than SMP systems. It is publics demanding that representatives pro-
because of their greater inclusiveness and fair- vide accounts of their positions and deci-
ness that democratic theorists at least since sions, even as they change (Mansbridge 2004,
Mill have favored PR over SMP systems. A Urbinati 2006). This increasing attention to
government should reach decisions on the ba- discursive accountability is yet another rea-
sis of debates among representatives of “every son democratic theorists have paid more at-
opinion which exists in the constituencies” in tention to the impact of constitutional design
a body that reflects “its fair share of voices” on deliberative judgment (Habermas 1996,
(Mill 1991 [1861], pp. 448–50; see also Kelsen Manin 1997, Elster 1998, Sunstein 2002,
1929, Friedrich 1968, Fishkin 1995). Demo- James 2004). These issues have returned also
cratic theorists concerned with the represen- in contemporary debates over fair representa-
tation of disadvantaged groups also prefer PR, tion (Beitz 1989, Williams 1998, Thompson
simply because its more inclusive logic in- 2002). At this time, however, theories relat-
creases the chances that disadvantaged groups ing constitutional forms and electoral systems
will have representation (Amy 1996, Barber to new accounts of democratic representation
2001). In addition, PR may result in more de- remain underdeveloped.
liberative legislative bodies: Because the elec- Because of the normative importance of
toral system is less likely to produce governing proportionality to the democracy-justice rela-
majority parties, parliaments operating un- tionship, a small but growing number of the-
der PR are more likely to develop consensus orists are becoming interested in represen-
forms of government (Sartori 1976, Lijphart tative bodies that are randomly constituted.
1999, Powell 2000, Steiner et al. 2005). For Randomness would, on average, ensure that
similar reasons, the design of local electoral such assemblies would represent whatever

www.annualreviews.org • Representation and Democratic Theory 399


ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

issues are salient to the public at the moment back onto the agenda of democratic theory
of selection, not only in proportion to the (see Beitz 1989). Such integration, however,
numbers of individuals with interests in par- will require that we understand partisanship
ticular issues, but also in proportion to the in- as an essential feature of deliberation. Parties
tensity with which interests and opinions are as organizations are not to be confused with
held (Burnheim 1989, Fishkin 1995, Pogge factions since they can and should transform
2002, Rehfeld 2005; cf. Dahl 1989, Warren & particular forms of advocacy into more com-
Pearse 2008). Closely related is the concept of peting accounts of common goods and inter-
randomly selected citizen representative bod- ests, and in this way structure public discourse
ies, discussed below. (Urbinati 2006, pp. 37–38; Rosenblum 2008).

Political Parties Ethical Obligations


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Although democratic theorists have been of Representatives


reengaging questions of institutional de- If representative roles are structured in part by
sign, they have ignored political parties (cf. institutional rules and inducements, they are
Rosenblum 2008). No doubt the explanation also structured by the ethical duties of pub-
for inattention mirrors the more general pic- lic office. Representatives are elected to do
ture: Parties have been viewed as strategic or- certain jobs, and their jobs come with obli-
ganizations that are primarily instruments of gations. The question of representative roles
political elites rather than venues of participa- was famously conceived by Burke (1968), who
tion. Moreover, parties are, well, partisan— argued that representatives should serve as
and thus do not provide a hospitable en- trustees of the interests of those who elected
vironment for reasoned deliberations about them—“virtual representatives”—rather than
common ends, the preferred mode of politi- serving as delegates. Representatives should
cal interaction for political philosophers from not be bound by the preferences of con-
Plato to Rawls. stituents; they should use their autonomous
Yet if elections provide real choices for judgment within the context of deliberative
citizens—that is, if citizens are able to use the bodies to represent the public interest.
vote to authorize and to hold to account those The notion that representatives are
who would represent them—parties will nat- trustees is widely understood as a quasi-
urally form, structurally determined by the aristocratic understanding of representation:
characteristics of electoral systems, the reg- the best judgment of elites replaces the judg-
ulations that enable elections, and the consti- ment of the people. This understanding of
tutional form of government. As Rosenblum the delegate-trustee distinction crowds all
(2008) notes, in contrast to democratic the- “democratic” meanings of representation into
orists, most political scientists view demo- the delegate model. The formulation drains
cratic representation as unthinkable without the meaning from “democracy” and tells us
parties. They are arguably the key representa- nothing about how constituents’ interests are
tive bodies within representative government. converted into decisions within the context of
Their representative functions include aggre- a representative institution. That is, the con-
gating and deliberating interests and values, cept of delegation provides no explanation of
and linking issues through programmatic vi- decision making and thus fails to provides an
sions within political environments that are account of democratic rule. Pitkin (1967) of-
increasingly segmented. Because they per- fered more nuance when she noted that rep-
form these functions in ways that can be more resentatives cannot simply reflect their con-
or less inclusive and more or less delibera- stituents’ interests—in part because interests
tive, political parties should find their way are often unformed (thus, it is unclear what

400 Urbinati · Warren


ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

should be represented) and in part because ture (cf. Dovi 2007; E. Beerbohm, unpub-
their jobs include making collective decisions lished manuscript).
that accord with democratic institutions. In-
stead, Pitkin argued, we should understand
representatives as having the ethical obliga- Deliberation and Judgment
tion to be responsive to their constituents’ in- As we suggested above, one of the most im-
terests. This formulation had the advantage of portant inspirations for rethinking political
covering the complexities of the relationship, representation within electoral democracy has
although it did not provide much more. been the increasingly sophisticated empha-
Ironically, perhaps, early incarnations of sis on deliberation within democracy. From
group representation arguments fell on the this perspective, representation induces and
trustee side of the dichotomy, with its eli- forms relationships of judgment that enable
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tist leanings. If a representative is descrip- democracy, some of which may be formalized


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tively representative of a group, then the by election, and others of which may work
group’s members must trust their represen- through group advocacy, voice, the media, or
tative, since descriptive similarity in itself indeed, representative claims by any number
implies no mechanisms for accountability— of actors from both within and outside insti-
and, indeed, carries ambiguous role obli- tutionalized politics (Rosanvallon 1998). In-
gations. But working through the require- trinsic to these processes of judgment is what
ments for group representatives has put the Urbinati (2006) calls indirectness in politics—
problem of role ethics back on the agenda the representation of citizens’ judgments to
(Phillips 1995, Williams 1998, Mansbridge them by their representative and vice versa—
1999, Young 2000, Dovi 2002). Interestingly, through which the demos reflects on itself and
the category of trust has proved more fruitful judges its laws, institutions, and leaders (see
than that of delegate, reconfigured so it is clear also Ankersmit 2002).
that, as a trustee, the representative is obli- These reflexive relationships often go
gated to keep his or her constituents’ interests unnoticed, but they are essential to mak-
in view (Dovi 2007, ch. 5). Mansbridge (2003) ing political judgment work in complex,
argues that much democratic representation pluralistic, democratic societies. Represen-
is “gyroscopic”: Voters select a representa- tation functions to depersonalize claims and
tive because she holds values that converge opinions, for example, which in turn allows
with theirs. Voters then pay little attention citizens to mingle and associate without eras-
to the representative, trusting her to do the ing the partisan spirit essential to free political
right thing. They often “select” rather than competition. Representation serves to unify
“sanction”; they trust rather than monitor. On and connect citizens, while also pulling them
Mansbridge’s view, there is nothing undemo- out of the immediate present and projecting
cratic about this strategy. Voters are, in effect, them into future-oriented perspectives. Rep-
judging character rather than performance, resentation, when intertwined with citizens’
but they retain their capacity to remove a rep- reflexivity and participation, evokes and
resentative should the bases of their trust be focuses the natality of politics, through which
disappointed or betrayed ( J. Mansbridge, un- individuals transcend the immediacy of their
published manuscript). interests, biographical experience, and social
Interest in the ethical obligations of repre- and cultural attachments, and enlarge their
sentatives has also been fueled by problems political judgment on their own and others’
of campaign finance and corruption (Beitz opinions (Urbinati 2006; see Arendt 1989).
1989, ch. 9; Thompson 1995; Stark 2000; Thus, even at its most divisive, in a democratic
Warren 2006). We are likely to see full the- society representative institutions are never
ories of representative ethics in the near fu- solely descriptive of social segmentations

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ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

and identities. And at their best, they tend provides a transparent and practical basis for
toward transcendence of the here and now the distribution of votes to persons. But some
in a process that is animated by a dialectic of the primary virtues of electoral democracy
between what is and what can be or ought to are also limitations. Elections, for example,
be (Przeworski 1991, p. 19; cf. Hegel 1967). can and should be institutionalized in such
Finally, of course, representation also enables a way that the rules are knowable and pre-
citizens to survey and discipline power hold- dictable, and accountability can be achieved
ers, not only through the direct mechanisms over long periods of time (Thompson 2004).
of voting but also through the gathering and Yet the very stability of elected representatives
exposure of information by groups and the and electoral institutions means that they are
media who claim (not always credibly) to act slow to respond to emerging or marginalized
as representatives of the public. constituencies. Neither are elections very sen-
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In short, we should think of representative sitive to information. Although the campaigns


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democracy not as a pragmatic alternative to leading up to elections are, ideally, energetic


something we modern citizens can no longer periods of issue-focused deliberation, votes
have, namely direct democracy, but as an in- in themselves are information-poor. Elected
trinsically modern way of intertwining partic- representatives are left to rely on other means
ipation, political judgment, and the constitu- (polls, advice, focus groups, letters, petitions,
tion of demoi capable of self-rule. Understood and the like) to guess what voters intend
in this way, elections are not an alternative them to represent—over what spectrum of is-
to deliberation and participation, but rather sues, in what proportion, and with what in-
structure and constitute both. Elections are tensity. Although electoral cycles of autho-
not a discrete series of instants in which the rization and accountability provide a strong
sovereign will is authorized, but rather con- check against gross abuses of power, as rep-
tinuums of influence and power created and resentative devices they lack nuance and sen-
recreated by moments in which citizens can sitivity (Dunn 1999). Stated more positively,
use the vote to select and judge representatives insofar as electoral representation works, it
(Dahl 1971, pp. 20–21). Likewise, we should does so in conjunction with a rich fabric of
understand electoral representation as having representative claimants and advocacy within
an elective affinity with deliberative politics society (Rosanvallon 2006, Urbinati 2006).
because it structures ongoing processes of ac- This point was appreciated within early plu-
tion and reaction between institutions and so- ralist theory, though without the critical eye
ciety, between mistrust and legitimacy, and for the social and economic inequalities that
between sanctioned will and censuring judg- group advocacy–based democracy usually en-
ment from below (Rosanvallon 2006). tails (Truman 1951; Dahl 1956; cf. Held 1996,
ch. 6).
Further limitations of electoral represen-
THE NEW FRONTIER: tation inhere in its partisan qualities, how-
NONELECTORAL ever necessary they are if elections are to
DEMOCRATIC serve as instruments of authorization and ac-
REPRESENTATION countability (Urbinati 2006). This necessity
As we argued above, there are limitations trades off against others: If speech is always
to a purely electoral rendering of democracy strategic, it will dampen or subvert delibera-
and representation. Some of these limitations tion oriented toward norm- or fact-based con-
are mutable in principle but unlikely to be sensus (Chambers 2004, Mansbridge 2004).
changed in practice. The central organizing The deliberative elements of representation
principle of territorial constituency, for ex- are likewise dampened by the fact that legisla-
ample, is likely to remain, if only because it tive institutions are responsible for decisions

402 Urbinati · Warren


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affecting the exercise of state power, mean- lective decision-making bodies. Second, gov-
ing that they are poor venues for representing ernments and other entities are increasingly
emerging agendas, which do much better in designing “citizen representatives”: new, non-
the less restricted give and take of deliberation elected forms of representative bodies such as
in the public sphere (Habermas 1996). citizen panels, polls, and deliberative forums
In addition, these features of electoral (Warren 2008).
representation—their inability to refract fine-
grained representation into political insti-
tutions and their dampening effects on Self-Authorized Representatives
deliberation—fit poorly with the norms of Self-authorized representatives are not new.
citizenship evolving in the developed democ- Individuals and groups have always petitioned
racies. Dalton (2007) argues that new gener- government and made representative claims
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ations of citizens are voting less but engag- on behalf of interests and values they believe
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ing more. They want more choice; they want should have an impact. Interest group lib-
more direct impact. These are goods that elec- eralism and pluralism assume that this kind
toral representation cannot provide. This fact of representation does much, if not most, of
alone should spur us to think about repre- the work of conveying substance (Dahl 1971;
sentation more broadly, including nonelec- Held 1996, ch. 6). Moreover, history is replete
toral venues—not necessarily as competing with unelected leaders and groups making
forms of representation (though they can be), representative claims in the name of groups,
but possibly as complementary forms (Saward peoples, or nations precisely because they are
2006a,b). not formally represented. The constitutional
Finally, as we noted above (When is Rep- revolutions of the seventeenth century were
resentation “Democratic”?), the globalization induced by groups such as the Levellers. In the
of democratic norms and expectations simply French Revolution, Sieyes declared the exis-
does not fit with any electorally based con- tence of a “third class” that was the nation,
stituencies at all—not only within the inter- and they proposed themselves as the speakers
national domain but also in contexts that have or representatives of this class, and thus for
weak or nonexistent electoral democracies. the nation.
Owing to these functional limitations of It is not the existence of self-authorized
electoral representation, practices of demo- representatives that is new, but rather their
cratic representation increasingly go beyond large number and diversity (Warren 2001).
electoral venues, a phenomenon that testifies Collectively, self-authorized representatives
to the expansion and pluralization of spaces organize what might be called the “nega-
of political judgment in today’s democracies. tive power of the people” (Urbinati 2006)
One of the most remarkable developments has and can function as a “counter-politics” when
been the proliferation of representative claims institutionalized politics fails its representa-
that cannot be tested by election. These claims tive purposes (Rosanvallon 2006). Groups
come from at least two classes of representa- claim to represent women, a particular eth-
tives, discussed below. First, there are innu- nic group, victims of landmines, the im-
merable agents who, in effect, self-authorize: poverished and marginalized, parents, and
Advocacy organizations, interest groups, civil children (Strolovitch 2006). They claim to
society groups, international nongovernmen- represent a wide variety of goods: human
tal organizations, philanthropic foundations, rights and security, health, education, an-
journalists, and other individuals, including imals, rainforests, community, spirituality,
elected officials functioning as surrogate rep- safety, peace, economic development, and so
resentatives, claim to represent constituen- on. They often claim to represent positions
cies within public discourse and within col- and arguments, functioning as “discursive”

www.annualreviews.org • Representation and Democratic Theory 403


ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

representatives (Keck 2003; cf. Alcoff 1991, name they act? (b) How are they held ac-
Dryzek 2000, ch. 4). So representation of countable by those they claim to represent?
this kind can be targeted and issue-specific; With respect to authorization, the nature of
it can be flexible and respond to emerg- the representative agent will make a differ-
ing issues, and particularly to constituencies ence. Many self-authorized representatives
that are not territorially anchored. The col- are voluntary organizations with followings
lectivities representatives seek to influence and memberships. In such cases, authoriza-
are increasingly diverse: not only govern- tion might work through members’ votes and
ments and power holders but also public voices. Other kinds of self-authorized repre-
discourse and culture, as well as powerful sentatives make claims on behalf of ascriptive,
market actors such as corporations. These involuntary constituencies, such as racial or
kinds of representatives can and do func- ethnic groups (Alcoff 1991, Strolovitch 2006).
Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008.11:387-412. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org

tion beyond borders. Not only do they have Then there are agents who claim to represent
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the potential to compensate for electoral those with little or no voice, such as interna-
inflexibilities—providing high levels of tar- tional human rights organizations, or organi-
geted, information-rich representation—but zations representing the interests of children
they also function in areas where no elec- or animals. Finally, there are many agents—
toral democracy exists: in the global arena, nongovernmental organizations and founda-
and in authoritarian contexts (Dryzek 2000, tions, for example—who claim missions on
ch. 5; Grant & Keohane 2005; Saward 2006b; behalf of others, more or less formally (Grant
Bohman 2007; Rubenstein 2007). Indeed, & Keohane 2005, Saward 2006b). In these
these representative functions are increasingly kinds of cases, initial authorization is inher-
recognized by international organizations. ently problematic; agents claim representative
For instance, the United Nations has begun status and it is up to those who are claimed
recognizing civil society organizations within as “represented” to say yes or no or to of-
its programs as representative of groups that fer alternative accounts. Authorization is, as
are not well represented by its member states. it were, reflexive and retrospective at best.
The challenges for democratic theory are to Where those who are represented are silent
understand the nature of these representa- because of their context—or absent, as in
tive claims and to assess which of them count the case of future generations—the analogy
as contributions to democracy and in what to electoral authorization breaks down alto-
ways. It is now clear, for example, that self- gether, and we are better off to look at generic
authorized representation is not necessarily a norms and functions of democratic represen-
precursor to formal, electoral inclusion but tation, and then to imagine nonelectoral de-
rather a representative phenomenon in its vices that might serve these norms and func-
own right, which may contribute to democ- tions (Rubenstein 2007).
racy in ways that electoral representation can- No doubt because of the absence of for-
not. But unlike electoral mechanisms, the mal authorization in most cases, the work
arena of self-authorized representatives of- relevant to these new forms of representa-
fers no discrete domain of institutional pro- tion has focused primarily on accountabil-
cesses, and so identifying and assessing their ity (Ebrahim 2003, Kuper 2004, Held &
democratic contributions will take imagina- Koenig-Archibugi 2005, Castiglione 2006).
tion (D. Castiglione & M.E. Warren, unpub- There are several potential mechanisms of
lished manuscript). accountability. When membership-based vol-
One way to begin would be to ask the same untary organizations claim to represent their
generic questions asked of electoral represen- members, for example, members can either
tation, as suggested above: (a) How are the lend their names to the organization, or they
representatives authorized by those in whose can exit, producing market-like accountability

404 Urbinati · Warren


ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

(Goodin 2003). Groups without power may room jury, which represents the considered
go public, gaining influence precisely because judgment of peers. We can now add more
they can justify their representations (Warren recent experiments with citizen juries and
2001, ch. 4). A group may be held to ac- panels, advisory councils, stakeholder meet-
count indirectly through “horizontal” polic- ings, lay members of professional review
ing by other groups, by boards, or by the boards, representations at public hearings,
media, often through comparisons between public submissions, citizen surveys, deliber-
the group’s representative claims (e.g., in its ative polling, deliberative forums, and focus
mission statement) and its actions (Grant & groups (Pettit 1999b, Fung 2006b). Citizen
Keohane 2005). Devices such as performance representatives typically function not as alter-
indicators, audits, and surveys can add ele- natives but rather as supplements to elected
ments of accountability. representative bodies or administrative bod-
Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008.11:387-412. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org

Of course, this list of possible ways and ies in areas of functional weakness, usually
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means of authorization and accountability related to communication, deliberation, legit-


only tells us that, in principle, we could de- imacy, governability, or attentiveness to pub-
velop theories that would stretch to the do- lic norms and common goods (Brown 2006,
main of self-authorized representatives. It is Warren 2008).
neither a theory in itself, nor a judgment Although these representative forms are
as to whether or how this emerging do- typically categorized as participatory democ-
main contributes to democratic representa- racy, direct democracy, or citizen engage-
tion (cf. Warren 2001, ch. 7; 2003). But one ment, these terms are misleading because only
key issue for democratic theory is increas- a tiny percentage of citizens are actively in-
ingly clear, even in advance of well-developed volved in any given venue. The more im-
theories. In the case of electoral representa- portant properties of these forms of citizen
tion, an abstract equality is achieved through participation, we think, are representative. A
the universal franchise. There is no equiva- few citizens actively serve as representatives of
lent equality of influence or voice in the non- other citizens. What is most interesting about
electoral domain, where the advantages of these new forms is that they have the poten-
education, income, and other unequally dis- tial to represent discursively considered opin-
tributed resources are more likely to trans- ions and voices that are not necessarily rep-
late into patterns of over- and underrepre- resented either through electoral democracy
sentation (Warren 2001, Cain et al. 2003, or through the aggregate of self-authorized
Strolovitch 2006). The many advantages of representatives in the public sphere. Fung
self-authorized representation—and they are (2003) highlights this unique representative
considerable—may also result in increasingly function by referring to these new forms as
unequal representation. “minipublics.” They have the potential to cap-
ture opinions and voices that are not heard,
not necessarily because of group-based dis-
Citizen Representatives advantage, but because the sum total of ad-
Self-authorized representation provides a vocacy will often fail to represent unorga-
possible frame for understanding the rapid nized interests and values. Minipublics can
evolution of what we call, following Warren also represent considered public opinion, par-
(2008), “citizen representatives” (Rowe & ticularly opinions representing compromises
Frewer 2000, Brown 2006). These forms in- and trade-offs in complex or fractious issue
volve nonelected, formally designed venues areas. Under the standard model, the work
into which citizens are selected or self- of deliberatively crafting policies belongs to
selected for representative purposes. The old- the formal political institutions—and these
est form of citizen representative is the court- institutions find it increasingly difficult to

www.annualreviews.org • Representation and Democratic Theory 405


ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

represent considered, legitimate solutions be- balance to both electoral representation and
fore the public. Under the citizen representa- self-authorized representation. Its democratic
tive model, venues are designed, as it were, credentials stemmed from its initial constitu-
to generate considered opinion. Deliberative tion by elected representatives, its statistically
polls, for example, involve a random selec- representative makeup (so as to “look like the
tion of citizens who are convened for a week- people of BC”), and its submission of its final
end to discuss an issue such as health care recommendation directly to the people.
policy. During this time, participants learn Randomly selected bodies represent a
about the issue, deliberate, and then regis- novel and potentially important new form of
ter their opinions (Fishkin 1995). The re- representative—or, more precisely, the redis-
sults should represent what informed pub- covery of an ancient form (Fishkin 1991, Lieb
lic opinion would look like, were citizens to 2004). Should these forms grow, they will
Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008.11:387-412. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org

organize, become informed, and deliberate. bring new challenges. Because any randomly
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Presumably, the results are not simply coun- selected deliberative body will inevitably gen-
terfactual; they represent a statistically rep- erate opinions that differ from public opin-
resentative snapshot of the existing but la- ion, for example, connecting them to broader
tent preferences of citizens—preferences that publics will require new institutions, yet to
power holders seeking to represent “the peo- be devised (cf. Fung 2003, Warren & Pearse
ple” should need to know. 2008). At worst, randomly selected bodies
For similar reasons, governments increas- might become tools that elites use to le-
ingly constitute citizen juries and panels gitimate policies while bypassing electoral
charged with representing the views of citi- accountability, or they might substitute for
zens more generally, on a given issue (Brown broader citizen judgment and participation
2006). In an unusual experiment in non- (Ackerman 1991, p. 181). At best, however,
electoral representation, the government of such bodies might function as an important
British Columbia (BC) sought to assess the supplement to existing forms of representa-
province’s electoral system and recommend tion. They have the potential to link the judg-
an alternative in the form of a referen- ments of political elites much more closely
dum question. Rather than leaving the job to public opinion, while correcting for the
to the legislature or an expert commission, inequalities introduced by the rise of self-
the government constituted a “citizens’ as- authorized representatives.
sembly” composed of 160 members, selected
from voter rolls though a near-random pro-
cess. The assembly met over a period of THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
nine months, which included learning, pub- If elections alone qualify as representative
lic hearings, and deliberations. Professional democracy, then it is hard to find good ar-
representatives—in particular, organized ad- guments against the critics of contemporary
vocates and professional politicians—were ex- democracy who seek to unmask the role of
cluded. They were invited to speak with the the people as a mere myth, and point to
assembly, but the designers assumed that the the oligarchic degeneration and corruption
public interest would be represented only of electoral democracy. Such criticism de-
if stakeholder advocacy were separated from pends on an institutional history of repre-
learning, listening, and deliberation (Warren sentative government that has not been sub-
& Pearse 2008). In short, because it combined stantively edited since the eighteenth cen-
authorization by an elected government, ran- tury. Moreover, the suggestion that we extend
dom selection, a deliberative format, and ac- the meaning of democratic representation
countability through a referendum, the BC to include the informal, discursive character
Citizens’ Assembly was designed as a counter- of a pluralistic public sphere of associations,

406 Urbinati · Warren


ANRV344-PL11-17 ARI 17 April 2008 13:12

political movements, and opinions risks look- point. “Even if some of the Framers leaned
ing like an ideological refurbishment, func- more toward the idea of an aristocratic re-
tional to the new legitimation strategies of public than a democratic republic, they soon
political elites. Indeed, almost without ex- discovered that under the leadership of James
ception, it remains the case that only an Madison, among others, Americans would
elected political elite has both deliberative and rapidly undertake to create a more demo-
decision-making power, unlike the citizens, cratic republic” (pp. 5–6). Given the complex
whose formal freedom to discuss and criticize and evolving landscape of democracy, how-
proposals and policies does not ensure that ever, neither the standard model of represen-
their opinions will affect legislation and pol- tation nor the participatory ideal can encom-
icy making. pass the democratic ideal of inclusion of all
Here, however, we draw attention to the affected by collective decisions. To move
Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 2008.11:387-412. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org

important changes in representative institu- closer to this ideal, we shall need com-
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tions. These changes began with the adop- plex forms of representation—electoral rep-
tion and extension of universal suffrage, which resentation and its various territorially based
generated new forms of political life within so- cousins, self-authorized representation, and
ciety, in turn altering the nature and functions new forms of representation that are capable
of representative institutions. Dahl’s (2003) of representing latent interests, transnational
comment on the US case goes precisely to this issues, broad values, and discursive positions.

DISCLOSURE STATEMENT
The authors are not aware of any biases that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of
this review.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Dario Castiglione and Nancy Rosenblum for their comments on previous drafts of
this article.

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Annual Review of
Political Science

Contents Volume 11, 2008

State Failure
Robert H. Bates p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p1
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The Ups and Downs of Bureaucratic Organization


Johan P. Olsen p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 13
The Relationships Between Mass Media, Public Opinion, and Foreign
Policy: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis
Matthew A. Baum and Philip B.K. Potter p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 39
What the Ancient Greeks Can Tell Us About Democracy
Josiah Ober p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 67
The Judicialization of Mega-Politics and the Rise of Political Courts
Ran Hirschl p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 93
Debating the Role of Institutions in Political and Economic
Development: Theory, History, and Findings
Stanley L. Engerman and Kenneth L. Sokoloff p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p119
The Role of Politics in Economic Development
Peter Gourevitch p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p137
Does Electoral System Reform Work? Electoral System Lessons from
Reforms of the 1990s
Ethan Scheiner p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p161
The New Empirical Biopolitics
John R. Alford and John R. Hibbing p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p183
The Rule of Law and Economic Development
Stephan Haggard, Andrew MacIntyre, and Lydia Tiede p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p205
Hiding in Plain Sight: American Politics and the Carceral State
Marie Gottschalk p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p235
Private Global Business Regulation
David Vogel p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p261
Pitfalls and Prospects in the Peacekeeping Literature
Virginia Page Fortna and Lise Morjé Howard p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p283

v
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Discursive Institutionalism: The Explanatory Power of Ideas


and Discourse
Vivien A. Schmidt p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p303
The Mobilization of Opposition to Economic Liberalization
Kenneth M. Roberts p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p327
Coalitions
Macartan Humphreys p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p351
The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory
Nadia Urbinati and Mark E. Warren p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p387
What Have We Learned About Generalized Trust, If Anything?
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Peter Nannestad p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p413


Convenience Voting
Paul Gronke, Eva Galanes-Rosenbaum, Peter A. Miller, and Daniel Toffey p p p p p p p p p437
Race, Immigration, and the Identity-to-Politics Link
Taeku Lee p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p457
Work and Power: The Connection Between Female Labor Force
Participation and Female Political Representation
Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p479
Deliberative Democratic Theory and Empirical Political Science
Dennis F. Thompson p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p497
Is Deliberative Democracy a Falsifiable Theory?
Diana C. Mutz p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p521
The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of
Social Networks
Elisabeth Jean Wood p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p539
Political Polarization in the American Public
Morris P. Fiorina and Samuel J. Abrams p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p563

Indexes

Cumulative Index of Contributing Authors, Volumes 7–11 p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p589


Cumulative Index of Chapter Titles, Volumes 7–11 p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p591

Errata

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