British Journal of Political Science

On Political Representation 1

a1 Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University
a2 Department of Economics, University of Southampton


An essential feature of political representation is that a mediating assembly is set between the citizenry and political decision making. Representation involves indirect decision making or agency. Rational actor political theory often assumes representation in order to focus on problems of a principal–agent kind, but offers only relatively weak arguments for representation. We offer an alternative argument for representation that builds on our broader interpretation of rational actor political theory – an interpretation that emphasizes expressive considerations relative to instrumental considerations, and operates in a richer motivational setting. As well as providing an account of representation, we believe that our approach is capable of re-connecting rational actor political theory to many of the concerns of more traditional political theory.


1 Hamlin acknowledges the support of a Nuffield Foundation Social Science Fellowship; Brennan acknowledges the support of All Souls College, Oxford. Both authors acknowledge helpful comments made at a number of seminar presentations and by two anonymous referees.