Research on the democratic legitimacy of non-elected actors influencing policy while acting as representatives is often lacking in governance literature, despite being increasingly relevant worldwide in both established and emerging democracies. Recent theories of representation argue that there are non-electoral mechanisms to appoint such non-elected representatives and hold them responsible for their actions. Consequently, democratic non-electoral representation can be achieved. Through in-depth, empirical analysis, this article explores democratic non-electoral representation in governance networks by comparing how non-elected representatives, their constituents and the decision-making audience understand the outcome of representation to benefit the constituency, authorisation and accountability. This analysis explores the perspectives of the non-elected representatives, the constituency and the audience and discusses the theoretical implications of the results.
The research findings conclude that all three groups mostly share the understanding of democratic non-electoral representation as ongoing interactions between representatives and constituents, multiple (if any) organisational and discursive sources of authorisation and deliberative aspects of accountability. All of these are mechanisms that, in the absence of elections, can secure democratic representation. Contrary to what the theory suggests, accountability based on sanctions is not considered essential to ensure democratic non-electoral representation.
These findings make an important contribution to the literature on non-electoral representation in policymaking and to the broader literature on representative democracy.
You can read the original research in Policy & Politics:
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Welcome to our first virtual issue of 2021 and to a new year of reflecting on some of the latest thinking on the major policy questions of our time including the growing importance of digital democracy and on-line public service delivery, the decline of public trust in conventional politics, and the potential of citizen participation to reconnect electorates with political and policymaking processes.
Given that on-line working has become so pervasive and so important during the coronavirus pandemic, we start this virtual issue with a collection of papers that explores the role of digitalisation in promoting public participation and delivering public services. Read on as we journey from analyses of these innovative examples of digitalisation, stopping off at some familiar but important themes for regular readers of the journal including direct democracy, political leadership, and new insights into citizen participation. Continue reading →
by Tessa Coombes, PhD Researcher at Bristol University
For the final plenary session of the conference Prof. Andrew Gamble, from Cambridge University, took us back to the issue of democracy and its ability to survive and even thrive. We were reminded that for the first time in the modern state system authoritarian regimes are in retreat and representative democracy, in some form or other, is on the rise.
Representative liberal democracies have been described as the least admirable form of governance not least because of their inability to take difficult decisions and their short term thinking. Despite this, in the 20th century, representative democracy came to be seen as an ideal state. But it now seems we are in a time of transition, where there is a real disengagement and disillusionment with mainstream politics, where the choice is narrowing and where people are indifferent to their right to vote. This crisis of representative politics reflects a crisis of trust in our politics and politicians. Once more, despite this process, representative democracy Continue reading →
by Eva Sørensen, Professor in Public Administration and Democracy, Roskilde University, Denmark
A key task of elected politicians is to develop new innovative policies that address old unsolved as well as emerging policy problems. One of the causes of the current disenchantment of representative democracy is that mainstream forms of representative government favour hierarchy and competition, but provide poor conditions for collaboration between actors with relevant innovation assets. Hierarchy and competition are important innovation drivers because they put innovation on the political agenda and give politicians the incentive to innovate. However, as pointed out in recent strands of governance research and innovation theory, collaboration plays an essential role in creating the innovations. Dialogue between actors with different backgrounds and perspectives on a policy problem is valuable because it can promote creative destructions of existing policy positions, qualify the search for new ideas, inform prototyping and create joint ownership between policy makers and those who implement and diffuse new policies.