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Who Counts as a Democratic Representative?

Who Counts as a Democratic Representative?

On Claims of Self-Appointed Representation

(p.186) Chapter Eight Who Counts as a Democratic Representative?
Creating Political Presence
Laura Montanaro
University of Chicago Press

Non-electoral theories of democratic representation, though necessary to describe our political landscape, might enable malicious or opportunistic political actors to claim legitimacy. Without the normative goods and obligations that we usually associate with democratic representation derived from free and fair elections, including accountability and responsiveness to a political constituency, non-elected representation has mixed potential. On the one hand, self-appointed representatives have the potential to fulfill an important democratic function: to speak for those who are affected by particular decisions, but for various reasons are entirely excluded from the political process that influence such decisions, while at the same time they lack any opportunity for their voice to be heard. In this way, they can provide representation for others who need it and in forms that can effective. On the other hand, self-appointed representatives lack the clear characteristics one normally associates with democratic representation, being neither appointed nor accountable to those who they represent. This chapter discusses its democratic potential and its potential dangers, a distinction that turns not only on the representative-constituent relationship itself but also on the effects of that relationship on others.

Keywords:   self-appointed representatives, non-electoral accountability, ethics of representation

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