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Clarifying the Concept of Representation


This response to Andrew Rehfeld's “Representation Rethought” (American Political Science Review 2009) takes up his criticisms of my “Rethinking Representation” (American Political Science Review 2003) to advance a more relational and systematic approach to representation. To this end, it suggests replacing the “trustee” concept of representation with a “selection model” based on the selection and replacement of “gyroscopic” representatives who are both relatively self-reliant in judgment and relatively nonresponsive to sanctions. It explores as well the interaction between representatives’ (and constituents’) perceptions of reality and their normative views of what the representative ought to represent. Building from the concept of surrogate representation and other features of legislative representation, it argues for investigating, both normatively and empirically, not only the characteristics of individual representatives emphasized by Rehfeld's analysis but also the representative–constituent relationship and the larger representative system, including both elected and nonelected representatives, inside and outside the legislature.

Corresponding author
Jane Mansbridge is Adams Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (
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American Political Science Review
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