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Participation and Representation in Oaxaca, Mexico’s Customary Law Elections: Normative Debates and Lessons for Latin American Multiculturalism

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New Institutions for Participatory Democracy in Latin America

Abstract

The trade-off between participation and representation has been frequently problematized in political theory, but not so often in empirical studies. If we hold the concept of participation to be direct involvement of citizens in the decision-making process and allow for the historical debate among meanings of representation, we may insert ourselves into a debate that has lasted for hundreds of years. Indeed, the anti-Federalists prior to the founding of the United States argued, famously, for elected representatives who retained a strict responsibility to their constituents. As characterized by Herbert Storing, to anti-Federalists like Thomas Jefferson, “responsibility is ensured by the absence of much differentiation between the people and their government … Effective and thoroughgoing responsibility is to be found only in a likeness between the representative body and the citizens at large” (Storing, 1981:17). By contrast, elitist notions of representation such as Edmund Burke’s held that “the more a theorist sees the representative as a member of a superior elite of wisdom and reason, as Burke did, the less it makes sense for him to require the representative to consult the opinions or even the wishes of those for whom he acts” (Pitkin, 1967: 211). The anti-Federalists clearly preferred greater direct participation (and representation based on the views conveyed by citizens), whereas the Federalists and Burkeans championed diminished roles for citizens, both as purveyors of a popular will through participation via elections, and also in the translation of that will into policy.

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Maxwell A. Cameron Eric Hershberg Kenneth E. Sharpe

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© 2012 Maxwell A. Cameron, Eric Hershberg, and Kenneth E. Sharpe

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Eisenstadt, T.A., Yelle, J. (2012). Participation and Representation in Oaxaca, Mexico’s Customary Law Elections: Normative Debates and Lessons for Latin American Multiculturalism. In: Cameron, M.A., Hershberg, E., Sharpe, K.E. (eds) New Institutions for Participatory Democracy in Latin America. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137270580_8

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