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Theory of Political Representation

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Jarosław Szymanek

This book discusses political representation both as a political idea and a principle of law. Representation was a topic of political debates throughout the 19 th and 20 th century and the debate has intensified with today’s so-called «crisis of representation». The issue always relates to the political system in practice and this study takes into account the obvious assertion that it is impossible to imagine contemporary political systems without representation: Political representation is a principle of law and a process of correlating the political will of the representative and the represented.
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Chapter II: Theoretical Concepts of Representation

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Chapter II:  Theoretical Concepts of Representation

1. The Principium: Philosophical Concept of Representation

The Latin term repraesentatio meaning representation gained its contemporary denotation of political representation with all its implications in the era of the French Revolution. The earlier terms, such as mandatum, concilia, colloquia, conventus, curiae, placita etc., did not reflect the meaning of the term representation, albeit it must be admitted that some of them, such as mandate, were closely related to this term.1 Notably, the predominant majority of these terms functioned within the limits of private law2 and found their way into the domain of the public law much later, i.e. after the French Revolution, when the foundations of the modern concepts of constitutional law understood as public law began to form.3 It was then that the concept of the mandate, and specifically representation, took on its public legal character, becoming in a short time the most fundamental constitutional concept both in the constitutional law theory as well as in legislation at a constitutional level, which more or less openly accepted the principles of political representation construing it into a political principle of a state.4

Despite such lingering presence and, what’s more, regardless of a certain intuitive understanding of the term, the precise definition of the notion of representation in the constitutional law has continued to pose challenge and elude the rules of accurate interpretation to date.5 It is easier to analyse the adjective than to pinpoint the exact meaning of...

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