Beyond Participation and Accountability: Theorizing Representation in Local Democracy

Fischer, H W (2016) Beyond Participation and Accountability: Theorizing Representation in Local Democracy. World Development, 86. pp. 111-122. ISSN 1873-5991

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Recent decades have seen growing emphasis on enhancing public participation and accountability in governance processes. Yet the valence of these discussions has focused almost entirely on the character of citizen engagement itself, with little attention to the ways in which citizens’ agency is constituted in relation to changing forms of public authority. In this paper, I advance a theoretical account of political representation, a concept that is central to analysis of democracy, but which has seen only limited attention in the scholarship on democratic decentralization. I draw on two contrasting models—selection and sanction—to elaborate an understanding of representation that recognizes both mechanisms that enable citizens to hold their leaders to account as well as the character of leaders’ own intrinsic motivations. Through a qualitative account of three decades’ political change from a locality in the Indian Himalayas, I document a gradual process of institutional and social change that has enabled a new generation of more diverse elected leaders to ascend to positions of elected authority, including many from historically marginalized sections of society. By examining the experiences of three such individuals in detail, I demonstrate the importance of understanding who leaders are and what they do—their skills and aspirations, their identity and affiliations, and the kinds of representative relationships that they embody. Placing the selection and sanction models in dialog reveals new and productive avenues to explore the interplay between external incentive structures and leaders’ intrinsic motivations in shaping broader process of political change.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Business and Management
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2016 13:19
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2023 12:08

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