Contemporary Political Theory

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 519–540 | Cite as

Representing judgment – Judging representation: Rhetoric, judgment and ethos in democratic representation

  • Giuseppe BallacciEmail author


The ‘constructivist turn’ in political representation literature has clarified that representation is crucial in forging identities – through the creation of ideological and symbolic representations that mobilize and coalesce otherwise scattered and undefined social forces – and thus also why it is essentially an interpretative and performative activity. In this article I argue that, as a consequence of this emphasis on interpretation and performativity, this approach makes clear why the ethos (or the personal qualities) of representatives is important in representation. To prove this, I employ some insights from rhetoric. Rhetorical persuasion and democratic representation, indeed, call for a similar kind of judgment, as they both need to mediate between opposing exigencies: rhetoric between attentiveness to the specificity of the audience and the creation of new beliefs, and representation between being responsive to specific interests and giving them a new articulation. Mediating this tension requires an exercise of judgment that, being directed toward the future, inevitably introduces uncertainty into the relation. This is why both in rhetoric and representation the ethos is an essential element. However, as I argue in the conclusion, the personal qualities that should be considered relevant here are above political qualities, rather than technical or moral ones.


political representation constructivist turn judgment ethos rhetoric 


  1. Ankersmit, F.R. (1996) Aesthetic Politics: Political Philosophy beyond Fact and Value. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ankersmit, F.R. (2002a) Political Representation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ankersmit, F.R. (2002b) Representational democracy: An aesthetic approach to conflict and compromise. Common Knowledge 8(1): 24–46.Google Scholar
  4. Arendt, H. (1961) What is freedom? In: Between Past and Future. New York: The Viking Press.Google Scholar
  5. Arendt, H. (1968) Men in Dark Times. New York: Harcourt.Google Scholar
  6. Aristotle (1980) The Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by H.G. Apostle. Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel.Google Scholar
  7. Aristotle (1991) On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. Translated by G.A. Kennedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Aristotle (1998) Politics. Translated by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  9. Arnhart, L. (1981) Aristotle on Political Reasoning: A Commentary on the Rhetoric. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Benhabib, S. (1992) Situating the Self: Gender, Community, and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Brito Vieira, M. (2015) Founders and re-founders: Struggles of self-authorized representation. Constellations 22(4): 500–513.Google Scholar
  12. Brito Vieira, M. and Runciman, D. (2008) Representation. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  13. Burke, K. (1969) A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. Castiglione, D. and Warren, M. (2006) Rethinking democratic representation: Eight theoretical issues. In Rethinking Democratic Representation. Vancouver: Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, University of British Columbia.Google Scholar
  15. Cicero (1928) De Re Publica (On the Republic). In: De Re Publica (On the Republic) & De Legibus (On the Laws). Translated by C.W. Keyes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Cicero (1942) De Oratore. Translated by E.W. Sutton and H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Diehl, P. (2019, forthcoming) Populist twist: The relationship between the leader and the people in populism. In: D. Castiglione and J. Pollak (eds.) Creating Political Presence: The New Politics of Democratic Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Disch, L. (2011) Toward a mobilization conception of democratic representation. American Political Science Review 105(1): 100–114.Google Scholar
  19. Disch, L. (2012) Democratic representation and the constituency paradox. Perspectives on Politics 10(3): 599–616.Google Scholar
  20. Disch, L. (2015) The “constructivist turn” in democratic representation: A normative dead-end? Constellations 22(4): 487–498.Google Scholar
  21. Ferrara, A. (2008) The Force of the Example. Explorations in the Paradigm of Judgment. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Finlayson, A. (2012) Rhetoric and the political theory of ideologies. Political Studies 60(4): 751–767.Google Scholar
  23. Garsten, B. (2006) Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Garsten, B. (2011) The rhetoric revival in political theory. Annual Review of Political Science 14(1): 159–180.Google Scholar
  25. Garver, E. (1994) Aristotle’s Rhetoric: An Art of Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Garver, E. (2013) Deliberative rhetoric and ethical deliberation. Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought 30(2): 189–209.Google Scholar
  27. Green, J.E. (2009) The Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Laclau, E. (2005) On Populist Reason. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  29. Manin, B. (1997) The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Mansbridge, J. (2003) Rethinking Representation. The American Political Science Review 97(4): 515–528.Google Scholar
  31. Mansbridge, J. (2009) A “selection model” of political representation. Journal of Political Philosophy 17(4): 369–398.Google Scholar
  32. Martin, J. (2014) Politics and Rhetoric: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Michel, A. (2003) Les rapports de la rhétorique et de la philosophie dans l’oeuvre de Cicéron. Louvain and Paris: Peeters.Google Scholar
  34. Näsström, S. (2015) Democratic representation beyond election. Constellations 22(1): 1–12.Google Scholar
  35. Panizza, F. (2005) Introduction: Populism and the mirror of democracy. In: F. Panizza (ed.) Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. London and New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  36. Perelman, C. and Olbrechts-Tyteca, L. (1988) Traité de l’argumentation. La nouvelle rhétorique. Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.Google Scholar
  37. Pitkin, H.F. (1967) The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  38. Plotke, D. (1997) Representation is democracy. Constellations 4(1): 19–34.Google Scholar
  39. Quintilian (1920–1922) Institutio Oratoria. Translated by H.E. Butler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Rehfeld, A. (2009) Representation rethought: On trustees, delegates, and gyroscopes in the study of political representation and democracy. American Political Science Review,103(2), 214–230.Google Scholar
  41. Remer, G. (2010) The classical orator as political representative: Cicero and the modern concept of representation. Journal of Politics 72(4): 1063–1082.Google Scholar
  42. Rosanvallon, P. (1998) Le peuple introuvable. Histoire de la représentation démocratique en France. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  43. Runciman, D. (2007) The paradox of political representation. Journal of Political Philosophy 15(1): 93–114.Google Scholar
  44. Saward, M. (2006) The representative claim. Contemporary Political Theory 5(3): 297–318.Google Scholar
  45. Saward, M. (2009) Authorisation and authenticity: Representation and the unelected. The Journal of Political Philosophy 17(1): 1–22.Google Scholar
  46. Saward, M. (2010) The representative claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Thucydides (2013) The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians. Translated by J. Mynott. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Urbinati, N. (2005) Continuity and rupture: The power of judgment in democratic representation. Constellations 12(2): 194–222.Google Scholar
  49. Urbinati, N. (2006) Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  50. Urbinati, N. (2014) Democracy disfigured: Opinion, truth, and the people. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Urbinati, N. and Warren, M.E. (2008) The concept of representation in contemporary democratic theory. Annual Review of Political Science 11(1): 387–412.Google Scholar
  52. Warren, M.E. (1999) Democratic theory and trust. In: M.E. Warren (ed.) Democracy and Trust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Weber, M. (1968) On Charisma and Institution Building (Selected Papers). Edited by S.N. Eisenstadt. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  54. Young, I.M. (1997) Deferring group representation. In: I. Shapiro and W. Kymlicka (eds.) Ethnicity and Group Rights. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Young, I.M. (2000) Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Yunis, H. (1991) How do the people decide? Thucydides on periclean rhetoric and civic instruction. The American Journal of Philology 112(2): 179–200.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MinhoBragaPortugal

Personalised recommendations