Reclaiming Representation : Contemporary Advances in the Theory of Political Representation book cover
1st Edition

Reclaiming Representation
Contemporary Advances in the Theory of Political Representation

ISBN 9780367371814
Published July 12, 2019 by Routledge
244 Pages

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Book Description

Representation is integral to the functioning and legitimacy of modern government. Yet political theorists have often been reluctant to engage directly with questions of representation, and empirical political scientists have closed down such questions by making representation synonymous with congruence. Conceptually unproblematic and normatively inert for some, representation has been deemed impossible to pin down analytically and to defend normatively by others. But this is changing. Political theorists are now turning to political representation as a subject worthy of theoretical investigation in its own right. In their effort to rework the theory of political representation, they are also hoping to impact how representation is assessed and studied empirically.

This volume gathers together chapters by key contributors to what amounts to a "representative turn" in political theory. Their approaches and emphases are diverse, but taken together they represent a compelling and original attempt at re-conceptualizing political representation and critically assessing the main theoretical and political implications following from this, namely for how we conceive and assess representative democracy. Each contributor is invited to look back and ahead on the transformations to democratic self-government introduced by the theory and practice of political representation. Representation and democracy: outright conflict, uneasy cohabitation, or reciprocal constitutiveness? For those who think democracy would be better without representation, this volume is a must-read: it will question their assumptions, while also exploring some of the reasons for their discomfort.

Reclaiming Representation is essential reading for scholars and graduate researchers committed to staying on top of new developments in the field.

Table of Contents


Mónica Brito Vieira

Part I: Understanding Political Representation

Chapter 1: Performative Imaginaries: Pitkin versus Hobbes on Political Representation

Mónica Brito Vieira

Chapter 2: What is Representation? On Being and Becoming a Representative

Andrew Rehfeld

Chapter 3: Performative Representation

Michael Saward

Part II: Representation and Legitimacy

Chapter 4: The Two Cultures of Democratic Theory: Responsiveness, Democratic Quality, and the Empirical-Normative Divide

Andrew Sabl

Chapter 5: Toward a Mobilization Conception of Democratic Representation

Lisa Disch

Part III: Representation and Democracy

Chapter 6: Representative Democracy is Classless

Sofia Nässtrom

Chapter 7: The Democratic Tenor of Representation

Nadia Urbinati

Chapter 8: Representing Affected Interests

Laura Montanaro

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Mónica Brito Vieira (Ph.D. Cambridge 2005) is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Politics of the University of York. Her overlapping areas of interest are intellectual history, the history of political thought, and contemporary political theory. In recent years, her research has focused on the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and on the history and theory of political representation.


"Reclaiming Representation is the first collection of essays to put the "representative turn" in political theory in proper perspective, by bringing together some of the authors that have most contributed to such a "turn", and making them reflect on what political representation entails, what makes representation legitimate, and how it can be reconciled with democratic ideas of self-government. Each contributor offers an original reflection on how recent debates have reshaped both our conceptual and normative views of what political representation is and what it does, challenging in the process old certainties about the relationship between representation and democracy, or about the mirror-like view of how representatives’ decisions must reflect, or be congruent with the already fixed opinions of the represented. In her insightful introduction, Monica Brito-Vieira offers a most useful reconstruction of the coming about of the "representative turn", and weaves the book’s contributions into a convincing narrative, starting from Hobbes’s paradoxical formulation that "the king is the people", to its democratic inversion, that "the people is king", thus showing the central place that conceptions of representation play in modern political theory by engaging with ideas of sovereignty, people and authority." – Dario Castiglione, University of Exeter

"What does it mean to put representation—rather than, say, participation or deliberation—at the center of our theories of politics and democracy? And if representatives construct the identity and interests of the represented, then what can make representation legitimate? Addressing such questions with clarity and nuance, this carefully structured volume offers both an excellent introduction and stimulating contribution to recent theories of political representation." – Mark B. Brown, Department of Government, California State University, Sacramento