Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

a. THE CONDITIONS OF MODERN SOCIETIES AND THE
SPREAD OF POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

59
Representation
Max Weber
The Principal Forms and Characteristics of
Representation
The primary fact underlying representation is that the action of certain members of a group, the "representatives," is binding on the others or is looked upon as legitimate so that its result must be accepted by them. In the organization of authority in corporate groups, however, representation takes a variety of typical forms.
1. Appropriated representation. In this case the chief or a member of the administrative staff holds appropriated rights of representation. In this form it is very ancient and is found in all kinds of patriarchal and charismatic groups. The power of representation has a traditionally limited scope. This category covers the sheiks of clans and chiefs of tribes, the headmen of castes in India, hereditary priests of sects, the patel of the Indian village, the Obermärker, hereditary monarchs, and all sorts of similar patriarchal or patrimonial heads of corporate groups. Authority to conclude contractual agreements and to agree on binding rules governing their relations is found permitted to the elders of neighbouring tribes in what are otherwise exceedingly primitive conditions, as in Australia.
Closely related to appropriated representation is that on a basis of socially independent grouping. 1 This does not constitute representation so far as it is a matter primarily of representing and enforcing their own appropriated rights or privileges. It may, however, have a representative character and be recognized as such, so far as the effect of the

decisions of such bodies as estates extends beyond the personal holders of privileges to the unprivileged groups. This may not be confined to the immediate dependents of the members of the class in question but may include others who are not in the socially privileged class. These others are regularly bound by the action of the privileged group, whether this is merely taken for granted or a representative authority is explicitly claimed. This is true of all feudal courts and assemblies of privileged estates, and includes the Stände of the late Middle Ages in Germany and of more recent times. In Antiquity and in non-European areas this institution occurs only sporadically and has not been a universal stage of development.

3. The radical antithesis of this is "instructed" representation. In this case elected representatives or representatives chosen by rotation or lot or in any other manner exercise powers of representation which are strictly limited by an imperative mandate and a right of recall, the exercise of which is subject to the consent of those represented. This type of "representative" is, in effect, an agent of those he represents. The imperative mandate has had for a very long time a place in the most various types of groups. For instance, the elected representatives of the communes in France were almost always bound by the cahiers des doléances. At the present time this type of representation is particularly prominent in the Soviet type of republican organization where it serves as a substitute for immediate democracy, since the latter is impossible in a mass organization. Instructed mandates are certainly to be found in all sorts of organizations outside the Western World, both in the Middle Ages and in modern times, but nowhere else have they been of great historical significance.
____________________
From Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, ed. Talcott Parsons, trans. Talcott Parsons and A. M. Henderson. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), pp. 416-423. Reprinted by permission of the editor.

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