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Representation, in politics, representation describes how some individuals stand in for others or a group of others, for a certain time period. Representation usually refers to representative democracies, where elected officials nominally speak for their constituents in the legislature. Generally, only citizens are granted representation in the government in the form of voting rights; however, some democracies have extended this right further.


  • One half of our brethren who fight and pay taxes, are excluded, like Helots, from the rights of representation, as if society were instituted for the soil, and not for the men inhabiting it; or one half of these could dispose of the rights and the will of the other half, without their consent.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Taylor (May 28, 1816); in Paul L. Ford, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1899) vol. 10, p. 30.
  • Were our State a pure democracy, in which all its inhabitants should meet together to transact all their business, there would yet be excluded from their deliberations, 1. infants, until arrived at years of discretion. 2. Women, who, to prevent depravation of morals and ambiguity of issue, could not mix promiscuously in the public meetings of men. 3. Slaves, from whom the unfortunate state of things with us takes away the right of will and of property. Those then who have no will could be permitted to exercise none in the popular assembly; and of course, could delegate none to an agent in a representative assembly. The business, in the first case, would be done by qualified citizens only.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, September 5, 1816); in Paul L. Ford, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (1899) vol. 10, p. 45–46, footnote 1.
  • The art of representing the human figure in the ancient world begins and ends with ‘frontality’.
    • Arnold Hauser. The Social History of Art, Volume I. From Prehistoric Times to the Middle Ages, 1999
  • Modern democracy evolved from early democracy, and this process began in England before first reaching a fuller extent—for free white males—in the United States. Modern democracy is a form of rule where political participation is broad but episodic: citizens participate by voting for representatives, but this occurs only at certain intervals, and there are few means of control other than the vote—representatives cannot be bound by mandates or instructions. All of this contrasts with early democracy. In early democracies participation was often restricted to a smaller number of individuals, but for those who enjoyed the right, the frequency of participation was much higher. It was also the case that those who chose representatives could bind them with mandates, and individual localities could either veto central decisions or opt out of them. This created substantial blocking power and therefore a need for consensus. For this reason, there was less of a problem of “tyranny of the majority,” whereas this is an issue with which all modern democracies must grapple. If modern democracy takes a particular form, the peculiarities of Anglo-American history provide much of the explanation. England, and then the United States, deviated from the common European pattern, and it will be important for us to understand how and why this happened. This will also help us to understand the potential fracture points of modern democracy.
    • David Stasavage, The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today (2020), p. 17
  • [Many agricultural counties] are far more important in the life of the State than their population bears to the entire population of the State. It is for this reason that I have never been in favor of restricting their representation in our State Senate to a strictly population basis. It is the same reason that the founding fathers of our country gave balanced representation to the States of the Union, equal representation in one House and proportionate representation based upon population in the other.
    • Earl Warren, governor of California, speech at Merced, California (October 29, 1948), as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle (October 30, 1948), p. 3. Warren was asking for a "no" vote on a proposition which would reconstitute the state senate on the basis of population.

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