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Democracy in Search of Political Equality: Which Kind of ‘Political Representation’?

Democracy
Political Theory
Representation
Pamela Pansardi
Università degli Studi di Milano
Pamela Pansardi
Università degli Studi di Milano

Abstract

In this paper I shall take into account two distinct interpretations of political representation: the one that defines representation on the basis of the classical interest-aggregation conception of democratic equality, according to which political equality is granted by the equal opportunity offered to every individual to see her interests advanced trough the election of a candidate who commits to support them; a second one, which sees political representation as a feature of political equality understood not (merely) in terms of individual interests, but in terms of the individual’s social identity as a single and as a member of a group. In this paper I shall claim that this second interpretation of representation (as proposed by scholars like Jane Mansbridge, Iris Marion Young, and Anne Phillips) based on the idea of the promotion of ‘symbolic’ equality and equal recognition among the individuals in a democracy, should be supported. Accordingly, reasons will be offered to support the inclusion of mechanisms of descriptive representation (in terms of minority quotas or second-order ‘check and balances’ institutions) in the institutional framework of contemporary democracy: if political equality is a key value in the theory and practice of democracy, then all individuals should have the chance to be substantively – and not only formally – equal.