Wang Shaoguang: Representative and Representational Democracy, Part 2

Part one is here.

A useful part of Wang Shaoguang’s article “Representative and Representational Democracy” (2014) is his critique of the arguments for elections as a democratic mechanism (and in fact as the most fundamental component of democracy). The whole matter of the justification for elections in terms of their expected outcomes is usually avoided by electoralist dogma. Instead the discussion is framed using formalisms: elections are judged as being “legitimate” because they follow some supposed principles of “representativity”. The issue of how those principles themselves can be justified other than in terms of system outcomes is not addressed.

On the rare occasions when the expected outcomes of elections are addressed, two mechanisms are offered as connecting elections with desirable outcomes – Wang refers to these as the “authorization theory” and the “accountability theory”. These arguments go at least as far back as the Federalist papers. Wang first presents and critiques the authorization theory:

According to authorization theory, during elections each political party puts forth its policy positions and promotes its candidates, while the people have the right to choose to support whichever party or candidate they want, and they will vote for the party and candidates of their choice. In the sense that those who are elected start governing only after they have been invested with the authority of the people, this system is of course democratic.
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