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On Substantive Representation, Diversity, and Responsiveness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 December 2012

Karen Celis*
Affiliation:
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Extract

When are “the people”—with all its different groups—represented? It is commonly accepted that democratic representation implies that no significant parts of the population are excluded from the right to vote or to stand for election and, similarly, that parliaments and even governments should, to a certain extent, mirror the represented and governed population. If authorization and accountability indicate the democratic quality of the formal dimension of representation (i.e., it is democratic when it is accountable), then representativeness allows for evaluating descriptive representation (i.e., it is democratic when it is representative of society) (see also Celis 2009). But what are our standards for judging the democratic quality of substantive representation? According to Hanna F. Pitkin, that normative standard is the representative's responsiveness: substantive representation is “acting in the interest of the represented, in a manner responsive to them.” Responsiveness turns what representatives do into substantive representation of the demos. It is a metacriterion for democratic representation in the sense that accountability and descriptive representativeness need also to ensure responsiveness. But, again, questions arise: How should we understand responsiveness? How do representatives establish it? Where and when does responsiveness need to be established?

Type
Critical Perspectives on Gender and Politics
Copyright
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2012

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References

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