RECON Online Working Paper 2009/03

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On Political Representation

Myths and Challenges

Johannes Pollak, Jozef Bátora, Monika Mokre, Emmanuel Sigalas and Peter Slominski
(Institute for European Integration Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

 

Abstract

In this paper we critically reassess the standard account of political representation, in order to question the mythical foundation of its premises and explain why it can no longer serve as an adequate explanatory framework in the modern political context. We argue that representation was not invented as a second-best solution, that the represented are not always a collective of individuals, that there is an indirect rather than direct link between the represented and the representatives, that representatives can be legitimately chosen by methods other than elections and, finally, that good representation cannot be reduced to responsiveness. Despite the inconsistencies of different theories of representation, the standard account survived long enough for reasons we explain in this paper. The consolidation of the EU as a supranational political arena and the burgeoning activity of transnational actors resulted in a multiplication of structures and opportunities for political representation which seriously challenges the effectiveness and suitability of the standard representation model. Growing complexity, diminishing transparency and the prospect of competing representative claims from concurrent majorities create a volatile dynamic for the future of democracy at both national and EU level.

  
Keywords

Accountability – Democracy – Democratisation – Legitimacy – Multilevel Governance – Political Representation – Supranationalism


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