The Labyrinth of Representation: Structures, Systems, and Institutions
Ours is a government formed of representative democracy. Its central tenet is one of rule with the consent of the governed. This is accomplished in a large-scale democracy through representative devices. People grant their approval to government by democratic structures and arrangements designed to ensure they are "represented" in the actions that government takes. The ultimate task of this endeavor is to consider legal responses to the challenges of representation in a pluralist democracy. The goal of those efforts is a group-constituted political system that better represents individual citizens. To assess the soundness of the alternative legal remedies necessitates a review of principles of political representation. We cannot judge their merits without first clarifying what they seek to accomplish (or whether they are clear in what they seek to accomplish).
The phrase "political representation" is plagued by an ambiguity that impedes meaningful discussions of its shortcomings and possible remedies. The term has numerous connotations and implications that frame the arguments, whether one is considering the "representation" of individual, local, or national interests, or the "representative" responsibilities imposed on a legislator or the legislative body as a whole, or what it means to be effectively "represented." Representation means different things to different people, and different things in different contexts. Yet students of