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Vox Populi Vox Dei: Populism, Elitism and Private Reason

Alon Harel (Hebrew University)
Monday, September 17, 2018
12:00-2:00 PM
1171 Angell Hall Map
Populists often claim that representatives represent the people by complying with their preferences and judgments. As Donald Trump argued in the National Republican Convention, he represents 'the voice of the people'. Elitists, by contrast, argue that representatives are bound to decide wisely or correctly rather than conform blindly to popular sentiments.

This Article argues that the populist and elitist view of representation are both false. It argues that representation indeed requires the representative to endorse the perspective and worldview of the represented. But often endorsing the perspective of the represented requires the representative to act against the actual convictions of the represented. More specifically, to look at the world 'from the perspective of the represented' the representative’s decisions ought to satisfy the condition of justifiability-to the represented, namely, they must rest on reasoning that is accessible to the represented.

This understanding of representation has broader implications for political theory. It implies that private reason has important role to play in democratic politics: the constituency’s basic convictions should be taken into account in the reasoning of the representatives. Yet the duty of representation, that requires that the representatives' reasons be accessible to the represented, is only a pro tanto duty that can be overridden by conflicting normative considerations.
Building: Angell Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Lecture, Philosophy
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Department of Philosophy