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Innovation and Representation: On the Relationship Between Open Definitions and Defining Properties of Democracy

Democracy
International Relations
Political Theory
Representation
Pavel Dufek
Masaryk University
Pavel Dufek
Masaryk University
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Abstract

One of the available tracks of conceptual and theoretical innovation in democratic theory concerns opting for so-called “open definitions” of democracy; that is, employing inductive and historically sensitive approach to delineating what democracy means (or could mean), rather that conceptual derivation from a set of apparent principles. At the same time, democracy as a political concept stands in the need of a rather stable and coherent set of defining (“core”) properties, otherwise the door opens to unwelcome conceptual – and ultimately social scientific – confusion. I want to argue in this paper that recent developments in alternative theoretical conceptualisations political representation have such an ambiguous quality: On then one hand, they allow for inclusion of hereunto overlooked categories of the represented, the representing as well as modes of representation. On the hand, they are sometimes quite at odds with established social scientific definitions of democracy, and are mostly isolated from widely used indices (measurements) of the quality of democracy – not least because a sufficiently elaborated theory of political representation amounts to a full-fledged political theory of the normative kind. The problem as I see it is only exacerbated on transnational and global levels of political theorising and/or activity, as it necessarily blends with heated discussions about democracy, justice, and legitimacy beyond the state. My general point is that (democratic) political representation cannot be really separated from the wider context of normative political theory, which is the price to be paid for opening the concept of democracy to theoretical innovations.