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Representation

ISBN: 978-0-7456-4159-1
240 pages
October 2008, Polity
Representation (0745641598) cover image
What is representation? What does it mean when a politician represents citizens in government? How can citizens be represented beyond the boundaries of the nation-state?

These are just some of the questions which will be answered by David Runciman and Mónica Brito Vieira as they explain why representation should be understood as one of the key concepts in modern politics. The first part of the book examines the historical roots of the concept of representation, from its origins in ancient Rome through to its role in the revolutionary politics of the modern world. The second looks at different varieties of representation – in law as well as politics. The final part asks how the concept of representation can help us think creatively about current and future challenges facing the world.

Representation is too often treated as a secondary or qualifying idea – as in the phrase ‘representative democracy’. This book argues that we have this the wrong way round. Representation is the foundational idea in almost all areas of our political life. Making sense of representation in its own terms is crucial for seeing why democracy functions the way it does, and for exploring how it might function differently.

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List of Figures and Tables vi

Preface vii

Part I The History of Representation 1

1 The Roots of Political Representation 3

2 Representation vs. Democracy 29

Part II The Logic of Representation 63

3 Representing Individuals 65

4 Representing Groups 84

Part III The Politics of Representation 121

5 Representing the State 123

6 Representation Beyond the Nation-State 149

Epilogue: Representing the Future? 182

References 193

Index 207

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David Runciman is University Lecturer in Political Theory at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Mónica Brito Vieira is Research Fellow at New Hall, Cambridge.

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  • a terrific new addition to the well respected Key Concepts series which looks at the core concept of Representation
  • a clear, concise and carefully-argued account of the terrain of Representation from ancient Rome to the revolutionary politics of the modern world
  • looks at a broad range of different varieties of representation – in law as well as politics
  • asks how the concept of representation can help us think creatively about current and future challenges facing the world
  • beautifully and engagingly written, this book offers the ideal introduction to the concept of Representation for students and interested general readers
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“Runciman and Vieira track the history of the idea of representation, break apart the complex of themes that it encodes, and reveal some salient lessons for the internal and external organization of states. This is rich, intriguing and important stuff — political theory at its best.”
Philip Pettit, Princeton University


“The authors succeed splendidly in their admirable ambition to survey the past, present and future of the concept of representation in a manner that is at once accessible and original, giving both neophyte and expert plenty to think about.”
Richard Bellamy, University College London

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