Representation and Representative Institutions in Political Theory


What does it mean to be “represented” in politics? This workshop introduces some of the primary concepts and norms underlie our practices of political representation – practices that are so familiar we are liable to take them for granted. Can the will of the citizens be represented? If so, are elections required for representation to occur, and according to what set of values should the electoral system be designed? What is the relationship between “democracy” and “representative government”? Should representatives be in some way superior to or more enlightened than their constituents? Must assemblies they “look like” the nation over which they rule in order to be legitimate – with genders, races, and/or socioeconomic classes appearing in the assembly in the same ratios as they do in society as a whole?

As the foregoing questions indicate, issues around representation are some of the thorniest and most contested both in the history of political thought and in political philosophy and public discourse today. This workshop aims to introduce students to some of the central debates about political representation.