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How Representation Enables Democratic Citizenship

How Representation Enables Democratic Citizenship

(p.39) Chapter Two How Representation Enables Democratic Citizenship
Creating Political Presence
Mark E. Warren
University of Chicago Press

Within standard democratic theory, representation is primarily about scaling democracy onto mass societies. In Hanna Pitkin’s well-known formulation, representation overcomes constraints of scale by re-presenting: making present what is absent. While this formulation is not wrong, it does have a cost. Because it frames citizens as absent, it deflects our focus away from the question of what citizens are doing when they assess representative claims, authorize representatives to stand, speak, or act for them, and hold representatives accountable. Judgments to be represented can develop democratic citizenship by (1) inducing capacities for autonomous judgment; (2) framing individuals in their roles and capacities as members of collectivities; (3) enabling moral judgment by inducing individuals to view the world from the perspective of others; and (4) making discursive accountability possible. Along with other normative criteria, the institutions and practices of representative democracy can be judged as better or worse according to the ways they enable these capacities of democratic citizenship.

Keywords:   political representation, representative democracy, citizenship

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