HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.


The representative system is coming under increasing strain in many democratic countries. To take only one example, the 2016 referendum vote in Britain to leave the EU (“Brexit”) underscored the fragility of the representative system in both Britain and the EU. That the elected representatives in Britain decided to hold a referendum itself demonstrates the widespread belief that for many British citizens the existing system of electoral representation in Britain was not sufficiently legitimate to carry the weight of such a foundational decision. The referendum itself revealed that the opinion of the referendum majority in Britain differed dramatically from majority opinion among the democratically elected representatives. In the referendum process the elected representatives did not help cultivate a high standard of deliberation in the press and throughout the country. Many Brexit voters also considered their representation in the EU laughable. They believed that they and their country’s interests were not adequately represented in the EU and that insensitive bureaucrats in Brussels were harassing them with unjustifiable regulations. None of these weaknesses were surprises.


Mansbridge, Jane. "Recursive Representation." Creating Political Presence: The New Politics of Democratic Representation. Ed. Dario Castiglione and Johannes Pollak. University of Chicago Press, 2018.