Europe currently experiences a crisis of established forms of political representation, visible for example in increasing political distrust. Various claims to renew political representation are emerging all over the world. However, most contemporary research on representation focuses on electoral/mandate representation within single countries. As a result, we lack a comparative, global analysis of (new) representative claims developed outside the representative political system; and dynamics developing in the Global South, including non-democratic entities, are neglected by Western scholars. Our research intends to address these gaps by putting into perspective representative claims in France and Germany –two leading democracies in Europe actively experimenting with new concepts of representation–, and in three BRICS states: Brazil –the largest democracy in Latin America with innovative participatory devices including competing representative claims–, India –the world’s largest democracy and a pioneer in electoral quotas (as a claim for descriptive representation)– and China – a non-democratic regime engaged in a huge transformation with specific representative claims.
Building on German and French political theory, our conceptual framework departs from standard ways of considering political representation in the context of electoral and mandate claims (e.g. Pitkin). We argue that while mandate representation remains important, it fails to account for crucial contemporary developments. Our premise is that political representation is increasingly related to the (re)emergence of new representative claims, i.e. situations in which an actor claims to speak/act in the name of others. Such claims are most often based on the denunciation of misrepresentation, which they pretend to correct. However, in spite of the increasing variety of representative claims around the world, a comprehensive conceptual framework and a typology allowing a deeper understanding of these claims are missing and we will address this conceptual gap.
In the five countries under scrutiny, we will identify different situations in which (seemingly) new representative claims are raised, criticized or justified. Proceeding through a carefully designed common methodological framework, our research will pursue the objective of analyzing developments of representative claims from a global, transnational perspective. To reach this objective we focus on two research fields. We analyze: (i) representative claims at the national level (national parliaments and media) raised during three national debates in each country; (ii) representative claims raised in three participatory devices at the subnational level in each country. At both levels representative claims are justified with alleged misrepresentation of certain groups/individuals within the given representative bodies. We will rest on qualitative methods for data collection and apply the adjusted Representative Claim Analysis for data analyses. To scale up our findings, we will follow the “case-thinking” approach, identify patterns of representative claims, develop a typology which can be applied for “terminological, classificatory and heuristic means’ (Weber 1921), and theorize the findings in the context of modern democratic theory.