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Defining, Assessing and Measuring Substantive Representation of Unattached Interests Without Neglecting Minority Perceptions

Gender
Representation
Feminism
Identity
Power
Mette Marie Staehr Harder
Karlstad University
Mette Marie Staehr Harder
Karlstad University

Abstract

This paper addresses the questions of how constructivist inspired representation theory may assess and measure the quality of substantive representation of unattached interests. As described by Pitkin, political interests may appear in attached and unattached form. Unlike attached interests, unattached interests are not thought of as something that is owned by particular actors, but as something actors may participate in. As I have elaborated on elsewhere, when interests appear in unattached form, they may be thought of as detached from the identity of the actors, who participate in them (Harder, 2019). Among others, when appearing as unattached (e.g. as the interest of gender equality), a political advantage is that unlike attached interests (e.g. such as women's interests), the unattached interests does not prescribe specific actors as "the natural" actors" of a particular interests (e.g. like the concept of women's interest prescribes women as "the natural actor" of this interest). Yet, this "opening up" or democratization of the circle of potential actors who may act on a political interest, forces us to reconsider the way in which good substantive representation is defined, operationalized and measured. For example, when conceiving of women's interests, constructivist inspired scholars do often advocate that the articulations of women (or—depending of the interest at hand— the articulations of specific minorities of women) are to serve as guidelines for how the content of these interests is defined. Yet, how may this line of research assess the content of political interests, when there is no "natural actor" who's articulations may serve as guideline? And how may this line of research set up research designs that ensure that minority perceptions of such interests are not neglected? By assessing these questions, the paper engages in the further unfolding of current theories of substantive representation of minorities.