Theories of Political Representation

Course content

What is a good representative? Should minorities, future generations, non-human animals be represented in parliament? Who should do the “representing” – elected actors, courts, lobbies, citizens? Should we replace elections with random selection? What conditions need to be met for political representation practices to be democratic? And how should voters select their representatives?


This course provides students with an opportunity to engage with these and related questions raised in contemporary theories of political representation. We will read demanding theoretical texts that particularly focus on the multifaceted concept of political representation and on key debates about the democratic legitimacy and institutionalization of political representation. In the classroom, we will discuss and do exercises to clarify the concepts and arguments developed in these texts and to gain a critical perspective on these ideas. The course should also provide students with theoretical tools that can serve to make sense of and critically assess aspects of current political debates, institutions, and practices. Finally, students will have opportunities to learn to develop sound critiques of arguments as well as their own arguments in written and oral form.


Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

  • MSc in Political Science
  • MSc in Social Science
  • MSc in Security Risk Management
  • Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

  • Master Programme in Social Data Science
  • Bachelor and Master Programmes in Sociology
  • Master programme in Global Development


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
  • Credit students from Danish Universities
  • Open University students
Learning outcome


  • understand and explain central concepts of contemporary theories of political representation
  • understand and explain key arguments and debates in contemporary theories of political representation



  • identify concepts and arguments in theoretical texts
  • reconstruct and critically analyze concepts and arguments, in group and individually
  • present and discuss concepts and arguments and a critical perspective on them orally and in writing



  • present argumentative content in support of conceptual or normative claims
  • reflect critically and independently on concepts and theories
  • bring central concepts and theories in relation with each other and witth political practice and institutions.

Seminar sessions: short lectures, discussions, student presentations, group exercises.

Preparation: guided self- or group-study to
- read carefully all the required readings in advance of each session;
- critically reflect on the required readings;
- prepare questions and critical points for class discussion;
- prepare and complete session-dependent exercises.

Indicative selection of literature:

Celis, Karen and Sarah Childs. 2020. Feminist Democratic Representation. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Dovi, Susanne. 2007. The Good Representative. Malden, Blackwell.

Kuyper, Jonathan. “Systemic Representation: Democracy, Deliberation, and Nonelectoral Representatives.” American Political Science Review 110 (2): 308–324.

Landemore, Hélène. 2020. Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the Twenty-First Century. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Manin, Bernard. 1997. The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mansbridge, Jane. 2003. “Rethinking Representation.” American Political Science Review 97 (4): 515-528.

Montanaro, Laura. 2017. Who Elected Oxfam? A Democratic Defense of Self-Appointed Representatives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Phillips, Anne. 1995. The Politics of Presence. New York: Clarendon.

Pitkin, Hannah F. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley, University of California Press.

Plotke, David. 1997. “Representation is Democracy.” Constellations 4 (1): 19-34.

Rubenstein, Jennifer C. “The Misuse of Power, Not Bad Representation: Why It Is Beside the Point that No One Elected Oxfam.” Journal of Political Philosophy 22 (2): 204-230.

Saward, Michael. 2010. The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, Dennis. 2010. “Representing future generations: political presentism and democratic trusteeship.” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 13 (1): 17-37.

Urbinati, Nadia and Mark E. Warren. 2008. “The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 11: 387-412.

Warren, Mark E. 2008. “Citizens Representatives.” In Warren, Mark E. and Hillary Pearse, Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens' Assembly. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 50-69.

Williams, Melissa. 1998. Voice, Trust, and Memory: Marginalized Groups and the Failings of Liberal Representation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
Portfolio (2 assignments during semester)
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment
- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assessment:


Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings

Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings

Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester


Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Social Data Science
  • Department of Sociology
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Alice el-Wakil   (14-6974716b6d366d74357f6973717448716e7b36737d366c73)
Saved on the 01-05-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students