The Social Science Encyclopedia

Authors: Kuper & Kuper
Summary: The entry treats representation historically. It surveys the rise of European parliaments through the transformation of the sovereign's councilors into a sovereign assembly
Originally, the medieval monarch sought advice from men chosen for their competence and trustworthiness. During crises, such councilors demanded and obtained the right to convene periodically and to be masters of their agenda. They began to act as a single assembly, and to speak for the people as a whole. Thus the monarch came to be seen as speaking only for himself.
The entry concludes by noting some of the complexities of representation. When the transformation of councilors into a parliament was complete, under the principle of "one man, one vote," the inadequacies of this formulation of representation came to be perceived: voters coalesced into groups in order to press their various interests more effectively through spokesmen or organizations.