Three Flavours of Representation

To represent is to stand in for something that is absent. Politically, it has been theorized about much. In this very short post, three types of political representation are briefly described.

Representation, or re-presentation, is when something that is absent is ‘given life’ by something else. The number 3 may be used to represent 3 stones, for example. In politics, it generally has the meaning of an individual ‘standing-in’ for a large group or for an ideal. In the modern world representative theory has assumed major importance. For example, the rallying cry of the American revolutionaries was ‘no taxation without representation.’

There are basically three types of political representation:

(1) A representative must act as an agent. Similar as to how a lawyer defends the interests of a ‘principal,’ a political representative must apply his/her expertise so as to ensure the best outcome for their ‘client,’ i.e. the constituents. The US would lean strongly towards this type of representation.

(2) A representative must resemble the constituents. He/she must act as a little mini-world for constituents and must feel and act as constituents would do. This is the logic behind ‘proportional representation.’

(3) A representative must stand in some exalted position relative to the constituents. An outstanding personality may come into play. On the other hand, this exalted stature may not necessarily be due to his/her charisma. It may be because the office they occupy is in itself ‘special.’ Absolute monarchy or the papacy would lean towards this type of representation.

So a representative can be a professional, a ‘mini-me,’ or a larger-than-life character. Often, a bit of each of these three types comes into play. A representative should stand on a higher plane, act with some expertise, but not be too remote from constituents. However, it is also clear that certain cultures favour one of the three and lean towards a different type of representation accordingly.

Currently, I am researching a book on Carl Schmitt and hope that such a published book will represent my research adequately. I have already authored one book Mysteries of State in the Renaissance. My Amazon page is here.

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