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Alfred de Grazia:

PUBLIC & REPUBLIC : Political Representation in America



When an American thinks of representation, he generally thinks of his vote. It is his weapon and with it he can subdue any dragon that may emerge from the cave of political intrigue. From the vote, he supposes, comes his government, and from the government, actions which generally purport to conform with his wishes. But if he ponders a little longer, he will remember feelings of frustration at certain acts of his representatives; he will recall the depths of his ignorance about the habits and characteristics of his representatives; and he will realize that his weapon, though a handy one, cannot assure his control of all the specialized operations required in government.

The statements of any individual's degree of representation in his government is a complicated one. There are a number of ways of representing and of being represented. These different ways vary from time to time both in form and in significance. One method of understanding this changing situation is to discover the attitudes of men at different periods to what they call representation.

Representation is primarily a form of mind, reflecting a process of social communication that often changes in important respects without disturbing the outward appearance of political institutions. Representation is an aspect of all representative government; without it, the machinery of such government - its laws, franchises, and assemblies - becomes unproductive. But representation is also part of all government - despotic, aristocratic, or democratic - because it concerns the agreement prevailing between ruler and ruled. Representation was a familiar idea before representation government, as the term is commonly used, existed. Innumerable dynasties that would have shuddered at the thought of representative government were proud of what they termed the "complete" representation in their own societies.

In the past, the attention paid by writers to the concept of representation has centered on particular problems. These have been principally the suffrage and voting systems such as proportional representation. Another issue that has caused debate has been more psychological in nature: what relationship should exist between a representative and his constituents? Surprisingly enough, these three issues have never been considered as closely dependent upon one another. As we shall see, they are indeed related. What is perhaps more regrettable is that many other issues of representation have been slighted or ignored by writers.

An exception was Maude Clarke who, in her search for the origins of representation in the Middle Ages, found that many conditions lay at the root of the principle of representation. Different kinds of representation manifested themselves, she wrote. These were "personifications, specific acts, undertaken for reasons of administrative convenience and political action bearing directly upon public law". [1] All of these were acts of representation, Miss Clarke observed. The full significance and relevance of her enlarged viewpoint will receive clarification as we proceed.

We should not further postpone, however, specifying the meanings to be given the word representation in the present volume. Representation is a condition that exists when the characteristics and acts of one vested with public functions are in accord with the desires of one or more persons to whom the functions have objective or subjective importance. A device of representation is an attempt on the part of one or more persons to bring about the conditions of representation. Examples would be elections, qualifications for holding office, or the selection of public official by lot. Representation in a given situation may exist for one person, a few persons, or a great many. Thus, in the opinion of may, democracy is a society in which the public functionaries give a maximum of representation to a majority of the population. By contrast, a despotism has often been viewed as a society in which only the despot, or his family, or the nobility, has possessed the maximum of representation.

The search for the broader meanings of representation, both in the present and the past, must be conducted on three levels, and the ideas which men have had concerning representation can best be analyzed by relating them to these three levels. The first level is that of the community; it is composed of all those conscious and unconscious ways in which men are related to one another. The second level of representation is the discussion level; here men consciously make arrangements to further their own aims. This is the "jousting" part of the political process - bargains are made; organizations contend with one another; groups and individuals maneuver to acquire power and benefits. On the third level, the administration of government, general acts are brought to bear on individuals of the community. Here the immediate, concrete meaning of representation is present in the functionary's relation to the individual. But the relationship is governed by a general directive that may be more or less representative to the individual affected.

The community level of representation exhibits in a primitive form, as Maude Clarke has pointed out, in such personifications as the self-sacrifice described in II, Maccabees: "But I, as my brethren, offer up my body and life for the laws of our fathers ... that in me and my brethren the wrath of the Almighty which is justly brought upon all our nation, may cease." The representative embodies the traits, the outlook, even the sins, of the larger group. Furthermore, if the larger group has anything to say about it, the representative ought to possess some large measure of identity of characteristics with the group qualities, or at least some large measure of agreement with the group norms. How familiar in many societies are terms like "foreigner," "hick," and "snob" directed at representatives who lack such qualities. In American society there are unacknowledged qualifications of name, nationality, occupation, and education for many offices; such prerequisites for acting as a representative are none the less effective for not being incorporated into the written laws. Electors often demand these qualifications and, therefore, they often exist.

If such requirements work to promote an identity of background and experience between representative and constituents, the reason for the requirements lies beyond the system of popular elections. Other systems of recruitment without election may be even more demanding of identical characteristics. We need only mention the well-founded theory that the modern dictator resembles the masses in origins, traits, and behavior. Wrote Roberto Michels of the phenomenon of the "Duce": "He translates in a naked, linear, and briliant form his new consciousness that contains the aims of the multitude. The multitude itself frantically acclaims, answering from the profound voice of its own moral convictions, or, even more profound, of its own sub-conscious."[2]

Furthermore, so-called democracies have been known to select representatives by reason of their superior class position rather than to reject them because of it. The society's norms for representation may have demanded special differences rather than identity. Lecky reminds us in his History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in Europe that "as a great aristocracy is never insulated, as its ramifications penetrate into many spheres, and its social influence modifies all the relations of a society, the minds of men become insensibly habituated to a standard of judgment from which they would otherwise have recoiled."[3] Thus the representative must mirror social norms.

Those who rule have not been unconscious of this kind of representation, and have played immemorially the part of their subjects. The monarch of many a fairy tale dons the clothing of a peasant and ventures forth among the people to discover their problems and to sense their feelings about the government. For a moment at least, he accepts the lot of a victim of his own laws. The popular politician must search unfalteringly for the common denominator of the characteristics of the multitude. Huey Long," The Kingfish" of Louisiana, slept in silk pajamas, but when he was to be photographed signing a bill one night en deshabillé, he quickly donned an oldfashioned nightgown to avoid offending his constituents.

There are times when the whole idea of representation tends to be encompassed by the idea of community. We often forget this in our "rational" and "scientific" age. Primitive law is customary law, in the sense that specialized legal organs do not exist; there are no written codes and law is not foreign to the everyday life of the people.[4] The law of the early Middle Ages in much of Western Europe was customary law. Law was "found," rarely made, and it was found by abstracting the customary behavior of the population.[5]

When the Norman kings wished to discover the laws of Saxon England, they took a kind of public-opinion poll, according to a later historian describing the event. A writ went to the counties to form an inquest jury. "Twelve men, therefore, were chosen to make known the provision of their laws and customs, so far as they were able, omitting nothing and changing nothing by deception."[6] In our own times, the jury is still a random sampling to get the sense and reason of the community. The Supreme Court declared in 1942: "Tendencies, no matter how slight, toward the selection of jurors by any method other than a process which will insure a trial by a representative group are an undermining process weakening the institution of jury trial, and should be sturdily resisted."[7]

Moving from public law into the realms of private law, we find in the law of agency significant analogies to the practice of representation. The legal agent has always been the restricted alter ego of his principal, with power no greater than that of his principal, bound by ethics, and now by legal sanctions, not to allow any intrusion of his own interests into the affairs of his principle.[8] He must "impersonate" his client to the best of his ability, and, indeed, the word "impersonate" derives from the same root as the word "representation."[9] Today legal agency and representation are distantly related analogies. In the early elections of representative assemblies, the delegates were regarded really as a species of legal attorney. And, as each chapter will show, this idea has always been present in the minds of many men.

The illustrations thus far offered can be multiplied from the vastness of political life. They all indicate that ideas of political representation come not only from the level of rational political adjustments and of mechanical devices to promote the particular desires of various groups, but come also from a region in which community ties preponderate. Representation, then, may be regarded as a consensus of characteristics between politically unequal parties of which one is the representative and the other the constituent, such consensus being derived from the many means by which a public is organized.

From the community level of representation, one moves into the "rational," "secondary," and "individualistic" level of representation.[10] Here unconscious, traditional factors are less strong, and all those selective factors requiring similarities of appearance, background, and habits of life recede in importance. The representative and the represented are in accord because of stated facts, visible tendencies, and agreement in interests that are defined very often in the press, speeches, platforms, and records of past actions.[11] This is regarded as the typical sphere of representative government as that sphere is outlined in the classical expositions - in Locke's Second Essay on Civil Government, in J.S. Mill's Representative Government, in the framing of the American Constitution, and in the French Constitution of 1795. [12] This is the representation of the Congressional Record, of Hansard's Debates, the representation which Carlyle said was a "talking shop," and about which T.V. Smith wrote when he declared: "Once admit that if opposing points of view are to be acknowledged, we must allow partisans to represent them, then we must begin to provide an institution under which all points of view can meet on equal terms and have it out."[13]

This is the level of representation which has been peculiarly the hallmark of representative governments, and Fascists and Communists have been quick to deny its importance. Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia made obeisance to the traditional representative structures which they inherited from the Age of Representative Government, but such structures became vermiform appendixes in systems that took drastically different methods of achieving what those governments considered representation.[14] The feeble efforts of Hobbes to keep alive the representation on which his original social contract was based, and the significant denial by Rousseau that the sovereignty of the people could be alienated or delegated to deputies, culminated in Pareto, who pontificated: " We need not linger on the fiction of 'popular representation' -- poppycock grinds no flour," and in the Nazi Koellreutter, who eliminated worries over representation by the formula:" The one who has authority represents directly through his personality."[15]

Representation operates on the level of unconscious expression and of discussion and legislation, but it is also found on the level of administration. Administration, broadly defined to include the dispensation of justice, deals generally with materials that have been discussed and legislated upon or with materials that are so generally agreed to that they are for the moment not part of the discussion-legislation sphere. These materials, as presented to administrators and judges, are couched in the general language of principles or policies. The general must then be deduced and applied to the particular case. The process by which abstract statements or directives are transformed into actions with reference to individuals is relevant in several ways to the study of representation.

The nature of the administrative function itself introduces problems of representation. In the areas of politics in which community sentiments and discussion make their influence on representation felt, the trend of thought is inductive toward symbolic expression or the declaration of policy. In administration, the trend of thinking is deductive toward execution. In this deductive process, which characterizes administrative work, certain factors diminish or magnify the representative condition that may have prevailed when the declaration of policy occurred. Examples of such factors would be recruitment by examination and long tenure in office, the sine qua non of technically competent execution of policy. Andrew Jackson was perhaps the most vociferous of the many voices that disputed the ability of a permanent bureaucracy to represent the changing circumstances of the constituencies. More often than not, administrative officials have been apart from the people, educated differently, behaving differently, and even dressing and eating differently. Expressive representation of the community has rarely characterized a highly integrated bureaucracy.

The administrative process also introduces by its very nature a difference between the representation that typically occurs in legislative assemblies and that which occurs in administration. While the values presented for consideration in legislatures and among other elected officials are often the values of particular groups - sectarian, economic, or local - the values presented for consideration in administration tend to be ethical or legal abstractions. The pure type of administration justifies its action as representative instances of abstractions like "the law," "the executive order," or " the national interest." It strives to offer the community specific and logical deductions from the abstract principles; it calls this offering the "true" representation.

Consequently, the type of representation offered by a pure bureaucracy is reminiscent of medieval "absorptive" representation. The Prince represents the whole body of State, wrote John of Salisbury in 1159, but is responsible to God or His representatives on Earth.[16] The constituents' lot is that of W.H. Auden's "Unknown Citizen".

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be

One against whom there was no official complaint,

And all the reports of his conduct agree

That, in the modern sense of the old-fashioned word, he was saint,

For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.


Was he free ? Was he happy? The question is absurd:

Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.[17]

The individual case is incorporated into the principle by the favorite techniques of unilateral decisions or hearing of the interested parties. It is no wonder, considering these conditions, that assaults on bureaucracy are so frequent and bitter. For administration, in its purest from, is gravely handicapped in expressing the community folk ways of the combination of practical, tangible values that meet on the bargaining level of representation. The application of laws and policies to individual cases produces a situation in which the objective, authoritative, and impersonal elements in representation are enhanced.

The symbolic function, the legislative function, the administrative function -- all three have been described and emphasized in political writings as function of the state. It is no novelty, therefore, to state that whatever agreement exists between representative and represented, between the functionaries and the public, may be regarded as composed of expressive, legislative, and administrative factors. Representation may be sought and studied wherever these functions appear - in the executive, in the courts, and in the national and local legislatures. We may expect to find that the goals of the groups that hold power or that contend for power will be revealed by the particular kinds of governmental arrangements that those groups defend or demand.

Such groups would be not only the contemporary major ideological divisions - the Democrats, the Fascists, and the Communists. They also would be subdivisions of the society, each with a goal to reach and each with ideas about what representation is and how it should best be achieved. The battles of rich and poor, of religious sects and political sects, of urban and rural populations, have often centered about the means of ensuring representation.

To show how and why these groups held differing views of representation is a major task of the present work. To introduce the groups appropriately, we have described the arena in which they must struggle. Our preliminary review has shown the principle of representation to be broader and deeper than ordinarily conceived. Representation stretches beyond the boundaries of any one representative institution. It has its origins in the necessity for a specialized presentation of the community by public functionaries. It becomes more complex as the process of social communication between the community and its specialized representatives attains depth and develops regularized procedures. The process of social selection exacts certain characteristics from the representatives in the name of the community. Constituencies, formal and informal, are derived from the population. They are based on combinations of characteristics or values - geographical, economic, religious, and so forth. These constituencies influence the character of representation. Old arrangements are changed and new procedures for deriving constituencies are devised from time to time, so that the problem of defining the representative conditions of the population at a particular moment becomes complicated. Some of the arrangements are in dispute while others are ignored, accepted, or even revered. In no period are the institutions all consistent; and only rarely is there consistency in the ideas of men about representation.

Still, there are general tendencies of thought and practice to be found. The struggle of the groups over representation can be reduced to a pattern. To isolate clusters of ideas on representation to discover their genealogy and report their birth, to trace their family history, to point out where some weakened and others grew strong, and where some elements married into other groups and other elements died out: these are the tasks before us now. Only after these tasks are done may we attempt a forecast of things to come. It is to that practical end that the last pages of this book address themselves.

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