Social & Political Working Group: Kenneth Courtney Apr 20

Social & Political Working Group: Kenneth Courtney Apr 20

The Social & Political Philosophy Working Group will host its final workshop of the semester on Monday, April 20th, featuring Kenneth Courtney of the CUNY Graduate Center.

Normativity in Political Representation: A Defense of Representational Obligations
Kenneth Courtney, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Monday, April 20th, 2015
Time: 4:00pm
Location: Room 5109 (Globalization Room)

Please find the paper for the workshop attached to this email.

The abstract for the workshop can be found below.

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Normativity in Political Representation: A Defense of Representational Obligations
Disputes have continued since Pitkin’s seminal work on representation regarding the representative’s obligations to enact the popular mandate and, when appropriate, to act as an independent maker of decisions. While much has since been written regarding the forms through which popular mandates might be best realized, and—though considerably less—about those occasions on which a representative is empowered to act independently of such mandates, surprisingly little has been said about the normative grounding of these obligations. More recent work in political science has even proffered an account of political representation purged of normativity altogether—hence without invoking obligations—suggesting that if a relevant audience in the right circumstances recognizes an individual to be a representative, he or she should be understood as a representative. Such an approach undervalues normative dimensions that I will argue are central to our best understanding of political representation. Although an account that identifies representation with democratic legitimacy would indeed be too narrow, an account that says nothing about obligations held by representatives both with regard to those they represent and with regard to the frameworks within which representation occurs remains inadequate. Considerations invoked in a non-normative “general account” regarding what constitutes representation—determining the relevant audience, specifying appropriate circumstances, and providing criteria for the selection of representatives— end up requiring judgments that are best seen as irreducibly normative after all. Such an account further threatens to completely sever the activity of a representative from the interests of a constituency. We can better begin to discern normative features of political representation by considering the role of representative and the practice of representation more carefully.