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"We, the People": Ideas of Democratic Representation - POL00030H

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  • Department: Politics and International Relations
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Monica Brito-Vieira
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

Political representation lies at the core of modern politics. But the question of the nature and purpose of representative government, especially in its democratic form, remains far from settled. Is representative democracy a contradiction in terms? Is it a "defective substitute" for real democracy, a mere modern reinvention of the "mixed constitutions" of the past, combining both popular and elitist elements in what remains an unstable hybrid form that is showing signs of coming apart? Or does representative democracy constitute a new and possibly superior democratic form of its own? And, if so, what makes it distinctive? How do citizens achieve representation - through voting, through the groups, voluntary associations and movements that voice their claims, or through deliberative processes producing results with the hallmark of rationality and fairness? This module provides a broad exploration of these questions by drawing on the intellectual history of representative government, in both its democratic and non-democratic forms, as well as on the current "representative turn" of democratic political theory.

Module learning outcomes

By completing this module, students will

  • Obtain a good understanding of the history, the role, the aims, the potentialities and limits of political representation in the context of democratic and non-democratic, state-bound and non-state politics;
  • Examine the complexities surrounding the representation of different groups within the state and groups acting beyond it;
  • Develop a good knowledge of recent developments in the theorization and in the conceptualization of political representation;
  • Understand and critically assess the changing role of representation in democratic politics and the challenges these changes pose at both a normative and a practical level.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 25 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Monica Brito Vieira and David Runciman, Representation, Cambridge: Polity Press (2008).

Bernard Manin, The Principles of Modern Representative Government, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1997).

Hanna Fenichel Pitkin, The Concept of Representation, Berkeley: University of California Press (1967).

Nadia Urbinati, Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy, Chicago, Ill.: Chicago University Press (2006).

Adam Przeworski, Susan C. Strokes, and Bernard Manin (eds.), Democracy, Accountability and Representation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1999).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.