Saward’s Concept of the Representative Claim Revisited: An Empirical Perspective

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Saward’s Concept of the Representative Claim Revisited: An Empirical Perspective


  • Petra Guasti Research Unit Democratic Innovations, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
  • Brigitte Geissel Research Unit Democratic Innovations, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany


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Abstract:  Representation is a process of making, accepting, or rejecting representative claims (Disch, 2015; Saward, 2014). This groundbreaking insight challenged the standard assumption that representative democracy can be reduced to elections and activities of elected representatives (Pitkin, 1967). It broadened the scope of representative democracy to encompass representation activities beyond those authorized by elections, transformed our thinking and provided a new perspective, putting claims and their reception into the center. This paradigm shift erased the distinction between elected and non-elected representatives and disclosed the potential of non-elected actors’ claims to represent (Andeweg, 2003; Kuyper, 2016; Rosanvallon & Goldhammer, 2008; Saward, 2006, 2009; Van Biezen & Saward, 2008). In spite of this lively debate, we identify an important gap in the literature: while this paradigmatic shift inspired many authors, conceptual frameworks that can be applied for systematic empirical analysis of real-life cases are missing. In this article, we fill this gap and propose frameworks for assessing and validating a variety of real-life claims. Our study provides empirical substance to the ongoing theoretical debates, helping to translate the mainly theoretical ‘claim approach’ into empirical research tools. It helps to transform the conventional wisdom about what representation can (not) be and shines a new light on the potential future of (claims on) representation.

Keywords:  democracy; representation; representative claim; Saward; typology

Published:   24 September 2019


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v7i3.2103


© Petra Guasti, Brigitte Geissel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.