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Systemic Representation: Democracy, Deliberation, and Nonelectoral Representatives


This article explores the relationship between non-electoral representatives and democratic legitimacy by combining the recent constructivist turn in political representation with systemic work in deliberative theory. Two core arguments are advanced. First, non-electoral representatives should be judged by their position in a wider democratic system. Second, deliberative democracy offers a productive toolkit by which to evaluate these agents. I develop a framework of systemic representation which depicts the elemental parts of a democratic system and assigns normative standards according to the space occupied. The framework gives priority of democratic analysis to the systemic level. This helps mitigate a central concern in the constructivist turn which suggests that representatives mobilize constituencies in ways that are susceptible to framing and manipulation. I engage in case-study analysis of the collapsed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to unpack the different spaces occupied by non-electoral representative and elucidate the varied democratic demands that hinge on this positioning.

Corresponding author
Jonathan W. Kuyper is a postdoctoral fellow at Stockholm University (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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