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Representation, political

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S051-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

Political representation – the designation of a small group of politically active citizens to serve as representatives of the political community as a whole – is a central feature of contemporary states, especially of those that claim to be democratic. But what does it mean to say that one person or one group of people represents a larger group? Representatives are sometimes understood as agents of those they represent, sometimes symbolizing them, sometimes typifying their distinctive qualities or attitudes. Although political representation has something in common with each of these, it has its own special character. The missing idea here may be that the group represented authorizes the representative to make decisions on its behalf. This still leaves open one crucial question, however: how far should political representatives remain answerable to those they represent, and how far should they have the freedom to act on their own judgment?

Citing this article:
Reeve, Andrew. Representation, political, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S051-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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