Two Concepts of Constituency

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The Journal of Politics, ISSN: 0022-3816, Vol: 77, Issue: 2, Page: 381-393

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James, Michael Rabinder
University of Chicago Press
Social Sciences; Political Science; Political Theory
article description
In this essay, I challenge the conceptual and normative arguments of Andrew Rehfeld's The Concept of Constituency. I argue that Rehfeld conflates two distinct concepts of constituency as a result of errors in his normative argument for random, permanent constituencies. In response, I carefully distinguish the two concepts of objective constituency (the grouping of citizens into geographic or other electoral rolls through parametric action) and subjective constituency (the formation of cohesive voting blocs to elect a representative through strategic and communicative action between constituents and candidates). Distinguishing between objective and subjective constituency allows me to identify the shortcomings in the normative analyses of democratic constituencies proffered by Lisa Disch and Thomas Pogge. I then propose the use of random, permanent constituencies, each of which elects five representatives through the single transferable vote. This facilitates the representation of racial and ethnic minorities, while encouraging constituency deliberation aimed at the national interest.