representation

representation

[rep-ri-zen-tey-shuhn, -zuhn-]
representation, in government, the term used to designate the means by which a whole population may participate in governing through the device of having a much smaller number of people act on their behalf. Although an elective presidency and even a nonelective monarchy may possess psychological characteristics of representation for its people, the term is generally used to refer to the procedure by which a general population selects an assembly of representatives through voting. In the United States this assembly is the Congress of the United States, while in Great Britain it is Parliament. Historically, representation was first seen in the Roman republic, but it came into more general use in feudal times when a king would select representatives from each estate—the clergy, nobility, and burghers—so they might offer advice or petition him. Out of this system, as people gradually secured the right to choose their representatives themselves, grew the modern representative legislature. Modern representation is usually based upon numbers and territorial groupings of the population, such as a congressional district in the United States. An election district in both the United States and Great Britain sends only a single member to the legislative body and is therefore called a single-member district. The representative is chosen on the basis of winning a plurality within the district. In contrast to this system is that of proportional representation, in which there are plural-member districts (in national elections, the country as a whole may form one constituency) and the seats in the assembly are distributed among the parties on the basis of the proportion of the vote that each party receives. This system gives more assurance that minority votes will be taken into account and tends to encourage the proliferation of parties. One perennial controversy on the subject concerns whether elected representatives should act according to the explicit desires of their constituents or according to their own personal judgments when they conflict with those desires.

In politics, a method or process of enabling a constituency to influence legislation and government policy through deputies chosen by it. The rationale of representative government is that in large modern countries the people cannot all assemble, as they did in the marketplace of democratic Athens. If the public is to participate in government, citizens must select a small number from among themselves to act for them. Political parties have come to act as intermediaries between citizens and their representatives by helping to formulate systematically citizens' demands. Arguments persist about the proper role of representatives; some theories suggest that they should act as delegates carrying out the instructions of the public, whereas others argue that they should serve as free agents, acting in accordance with their best ability and understanding. Seealso proportional representation.

Learn more about representation with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Electoral system in which the share of seats held by a political party in the legislature closely matches the share of popular votes it received. It was devised in Europe in the mid-19th century to guarantee minority groups more representation than was possible under the majority or plurality systems. Its supporters claim that it creates a more accurate reflection of public opinion; its opponents argue that by allowing more parties in a legislature, it may result in weaker, less stable governments. Two methods for apportioning seats are the single-transferable-vote method, under which voters rank candidates by preference, and the list system, under which voters select a party's list of candidates rather than individuals. Some countries (e.g., Germany and Russia) use a combination of plurality and proportional methods for allocating seats in the lower house of the national legislature. Seealso legislative apportionment.

Learn more about proportional representation with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Representation can refer to:

Represent can refer to:

Search another word or see representationon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;