Measuring representation: Rethinking the role of exclusion

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Jane Mansbridge (see Chapter 2) recommends understanding the “core” of democratic political representation as a selection model. More specifically, she envisions representation as a principal-agent relationship, for example the principal are the constituents and the agent is the representative. The selection model assumes that the potential agent already has “self-motivated, exogenous reasons” for doing what the principal wants. Such a model presupposes that democratic representation primarily requires getting the right people with the right motivations into politics. Inclusion is the central and constitutive feature of democratic representation. Following Mansbridge’s logic, democratic citizens need better mechanisms, for example deliberative forums, for selecting their representatives aswell as institutional incentives that support aligning the interests of constituents with their representatives’. In this way, Mansbridge argues for bringing “more selection” into the democratic processes. Mansbridge’s argument partially turns on her scepticism about the effciency and desirability of the sanctioning model. The sanctioning model, which she claims is a predominant model many political scientists use for understanding representation, assumes that constituents’ interests conflict with those of their representatives. Such conflicts require constituents to punish representatives who fail to act in their constituents’ interests, for example voting a corrupt politician out of offce. Such sanctioning mechanisms, which are diffcult to enact and costly, ensure accountability and transparency in democratic politics. Admittedly, Mansbridge recognizes that selection is always mixed with sanc-tions and that the selection model should be equal partners with the sanctions model. Nevertheless, she still contends that: it helps to think of the selection model as having selection at its core and sanctions at its periphery. In this core-periphery configuration, most of the congruence between the principals’ desires and the agent’s behaviour is accomplished by the voters selecting a representative who is honest, competent, and already has policy goals much like the constituents’. The strongest and most central mechanism for representing the constituent’s views is selection, while sanction works at the edges of the system, disciplining the selected representative’s tendencies to deviation only lightly and in the most important places [my emphasis; see Chapter 2].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPolitical Representation
Subtitle of host publicationRoles, representatives and the represented
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781317353157
ISBN (Print)9781138956278
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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