Re-founding Representation: Wider, Broader, Closer, Deeper

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This article challenges conventional understandings and methodologies associated with the study of political representation. It imagines representation as a power relationship and shifts attention from elections to a closer examination of the interface between representatives and those they claim to represent. It argues for the need to make representation studies wider, moving our focus to study polities beyond the confines of prosperous, established democracies. Secondly, we should broaden our understanding of representation agents in two ways. We should consider how non-voters are represented and we should include diverse forms of social organisations, problematising relationships of representation within these groups and taking their political-representational role seriously. Thirdly, we should move closer, conducting not only macro-level analyses but also micro-level studies, exploring representation among and between individuals and groups in order to understand the complex relationships, motives and dynamics of power at work. Finally we need to go deeper, looking at our own subject positions as scholars critically and challenging the neutrality of the ideas and assumptions that we use as intellectual tools. Moreover, we should promote deeper relationships of representation, reconnecting it to ideas and practices of participation, and promoting the role of accountability in 'closing the loop' and enhancing democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Issue number2
Early online date05 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • Representation
  • Citizenship


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