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The Good Representative

ISBN: 978-1-4051-5578-6
272 pages
January 2007, Wiley-Blackwell
The Good Representative (1405155787) cover image
In The Good Representative, Suzanne Dovi argues that democratic citizens should assess their representatives by their display of three virtues: they must be fair-minded, build critical trust, and be good gatekeepers.
  • This important book provides standards for evaluating the democratic credentials of representatives.
  • Identifies the problems with and obstacles to good democratic representation.
  • Argues that democratic representation, even good democratic representation, is not always desirable.
  • Timely and original, this book rejects the tendency to equate respect for the preferences of citizens with neutrality on the standards used in choosing their representatives.
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Preface viii

Acknowledgments xi

1 Who is a Good Representative? 1

An Ethics of Democratic Representation 6

The Proper Scope of an Ethics of Democratic Representation 9

Three Assumptions 14

The Theoretical Contribution of The Good Representative 17

Deliberative democracy 18

Descriptive representation for historically disadvantaged groups 21

The Structure of The Good Representative 23

2 Moving beyond Descriptive Representation 27

Democratic Representation and Descriptive Representation 29

Two Problems with Descriptive Representation 34

Justifying the Silence about Criteria 36

The Need for Criteria 39

The Need for Democratic Standards 44

3 Democratic Advocacy and Good Democratic Representation 52

The Scope of Democratic Representation 53

Sources of Authority for Democratic Representatives 62

Holding Democratic Representatives Accountable 65

Existing Standards for Identifying Bad Representatives 68

The interests of the constituents 69

Autonomy 71

Professional norms 72

Why Democratic Standards? 75

The importance of standards 78

The Importance of Function 81

Identifying the function of democratic representatives 84

Political advocacy 85

Democratic advocacy 88

The Three Virtues 90

Democracy and Democratic Citizens’ Preferences 92

4 The Virtue of Fair-Mindedness 100

Political Efficacy 101

Democratic Efficacy 104

Why Civic Equality? 105

The Meaning of Civic Equality 108

Using the First Virtue to Evaluate Representatives 114

Two Problems with the First Virtue 120

5 The Virtue of Critical Trust Building 124

Democratic Representation and Participation 127

Problems with Evaluating Representatives by Citizen Participation 130

The Virtue of Critical Trust Building 134

Promoting Critical Trust 139

Problems with the Second Virtue 141

6 The Virtue of Good Gatekeeping 145

Developing the Right Relationships 148

The Scope of Mutual Relations 155

The Virtue of Good Gatekeeping 161

Political opponents 162

The dispossessed 164

The marginalized 167

A Perspective of Exclusion 170

Problems with the Third Virtue 174

Conclusion 177

7 Preferable Democratic Representatives: Real-World Political Virtues 179

Preferability and the Virtues 182

Preferability and System-Dependency 183

Are Good Descriptive Representatives Good Democratic Representatives? 185

Choosing among the Virtues 190

Bad Democratic Representatives 196

Notes 201

References 228

Index 241

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Suzanne Dovi is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include democratic theory, representation (especially the representation of historically disadvantaged groups), feminist theory, and normative concepts such as hypocrisy, guilt, and despair. Her work has appeared in American Political Science Review, Constellations, Journal of Politics, and Polity.
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  • This important book provides standards for evaluating the democratic credentials of representatives.
  • Identifies the problems with and obstacles to good democratic representation.
  • Argues that democratic representation, even good democratic representation, is not always desirable.
  • Timely and original, this book rejects the tendency to equate respect for the preferences of citizens with neutrality on the standards used in choosing their representatives.
See More
"This book provides an excellent 'yardstick' to aid in the application of democratic theory…addresses potential problems…and discusses the realities of selecting 'good enough' representatives." (Choice)

"The Good Representative is a real service not just to the scholarly community but to general readers and ordinary citizens. Dovi puts forth clear criteria for judging those who aspire to speak in our name and defends them with vigor and clarity but always in just the civil and inclusive tone that she calls for in politicians. This is a comprehensive and careful work of synthesis, pulling together material from ethics, political science, and democratic theory that is not often mastered by one author, but it is something more: a work of true originality that will make even those who think they they know all the arguments about representation think again."
Andrew Sabl, Harvard University

"The Good Representative is an important contribution to the burgeoning literature on political representation, and one that speaks directly to a wide range of debates within democratic theory and professional ethics as well. Relying on an original application of Aristotelian functionalism to political representation, Dovi argues that good representatives should be fair minded, build trust, and serve as good gatekeepers. Doing so, they will realize three key values of civic equality, self governance and inclusion. In addition to providing guidelines for good representatives, Dovi's argument has the added virtue of providing guidance for democratic citizens as well. Provocative and subtle, theoretically sophisticated yet well grounded in contemporary politics, Dovi's argument deserves to reach a wide audience concerned with both the academic and practical state of democracy and political representation today. It is a critical argument for critical times."
Andrew Rehfeld, Wasington University in St Louis

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