Public Reason: Vol. 5, No. 1, June 2013
Substantive Representation in a Post-Democratic Environment
Marcel Wissenburg

Political and economic internationalization and globalization, the rise of sub-national
self-governing regions and spheres, governance replacing government and many related
processes change the role and context of the nation-state, the protector of mass democracy. The
concept of (substantive) representation, representation as ‘acting for,’ can help develop answers
to the threat that this ‘loss of polity’ poses to equal and universal access to decision-making,
i.e., the ideals behind mass democracy. Examining the reasons why the two most prominent
conceptions of representation – substantive and descriptive – would be valuable, I argue that
we can only make an uncontroversial case for substantive representation. I show that currently
popular cures for ‘loss of polity’ cannot be construed as new versions of or alternatives for mass
democracy. Finally, I discuss two ideal-types of more reasonable interpretations of the ideals
behind mass democracy.

Key words: political theory, representation, democracy.


Wissenburg, Marcel. 2013. Substantive Representation in a Post-Democratic Environment. Public Reason 5 (1): 115-136.