Most political scientists studying representation adopt some version of Hanna Pitkin’s definition of representation as “making present what is absent.” Their emphasis is on the “making present”—that is, on how representatives gain access, voice, and decision-making authority. Although presence is an essential component of representation, understanding and properly evaluating representation requires attending not only to how representation makes groups present but also to how it makes groups absent. In particular, it is important to differentiate the various kinds of absences that constitute representation. To that end, this paper offers a typology of political absence. It identifies three relevant divisions within absence (and presence) and distinguishes strategic absences from involuntary ones. Such theoretical distinctions are central to any general theory of representation that can adequately account for how representatives make and further claims by choosing to be absent from representative processes, and explicate the democratic costs and benefits of such absences.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science