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Political Representation

Classical Consent, Medieval Corporatism And The Origin Of Political Representation, Representing The Rights And Interests Of Individuals

Although in the early twenty-first century representative government is synonymous with democracy, the concept of political representation arose separately from the idea of the rule of the people. Broadly political representation refers to an arrangement whereby one is enabled to speak and act with authority in the behalf of some other.

There are two issues that must be addressed in any theory of representation: who or what is to be represented, and who or what is to be the representative. The first question revolves around the description of constituencies. The second concerns the method of selection by which the representative is determined. There are specific answers to these questions that make representation compatible with and complementary to democracy. Once such a constellation of ideas is in place, however, the drama with which the conjunction of representation and democracy is received—in 1820 James Mill (1773–1836) wrote that "in the grand discovery of modern times, the system of representation, the solution to all difficulties, both speculative and practical, will perhaps be found" (p. 21)—eclipses somewhat the predemocratic origins of the concept of representation.

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