Who gets to judge?

Approaching non-elected representative claims from constructivist interest-group theory

  • Jessica Nuske University of Bremen
Keywords: Constructivism, Interest Groups, Montanaro, Representative-claim, Saward, Strolovitch


Debates on the issue of representation have since long started to transcend elections and topographically bound constituencies by addressing self-appointed representatives in form of interest groups. However, with no elections and a mere claim to represent a constituency, who gets to judge and consequently authorises the claims and demands accountability? Deriving from Saward’s constructivist approach on the representative claim, this article introduces a revisited approach to interest groups by adjusting constructivism with respect to crucial insights derived from interest group theory, provided by Montanaro and Strolovitch. Building on this revisited approach, this article re-evaluates questions on who gets to authorise and account representatives and consequently presents a holistic constructivist framework not only on the nature of claim-based representation, but also on its potential and pitfalls. Additionally, it provides incentives for research on the disjunction between constituency and interest groups provoked by a (structural) occurrence of non-authorisation and non-accountability.

Author Biography

Jessica Nuske, University of Bremen

Jessica Nuske, from Oldenburg (Germany), is a graduate student, who received her Master’s degree in “Political Science” at the University of Bremen in 2019. She is currently working as research assistant at the Leibniz University Hannover and will begin her dissertational project focusing on interest group theory at the University of Bremen in April 2020. Her interests include theoretical and empirical approaches on interest groups, democratic theory and representation with focus on disadvantaged, intersectionally marginalized socioeconomic groups.


Beyers, Jan, Rainer Eising and William Maloney. 2008. “Researching Interest Group Politics in Europe and Elsewhere: Much We Study, Little We Know?” West European Politics 31, no. 6: 1103-1128. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402380802370443.
Castiglione, Dario. 2012. “Giving Pitkin Her Due: What the ‘Representative Claim’ Gets Right, and What It Risks Missing. Critical Exchange on Michael Saward’s The Representative Claim.” Contemporary Political Theory 11, no. 1: 109-127. https://doi.org/10.1057/cpt.2011.42.
Celis, Karen, Sarah Childs, Johanna Kantola and Mona Lena Krook. 2014. “Constituting Women’s Interests through Representative Claims.” Politics & Gender 10, no. 2: 149-174. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X14000026.
De Wilde, Pieter. 2013. “Representative Claims Analysis: Theory Meets Method.” Journal of European Public Policy 20, no. 2: 278-294. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2013.746128.
Derrida, Jacques. 1973. Of Grammatology. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
Disch, Lisa. 2010. “Rethinking Responsiveness.” Paper prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association, San Francisco. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lisa_Disch/publication/228283838_Rethinking_Responsiveness/links/55507d3808ae93634ec8df9a.pdf.
Disch, Lisa. 2012. “The ‘Constructivist Turn’ in Political Representation. Critical Exchange on Michael Saward’s The Representative Claim.” Contemporary Political Theory 11, no 1: 109-127. https://doi.org/10.1057/cpt.2011.42.
Disch, Lisa. 2015. “The ‘Constructivist Turn’ in Democratic Representation: A Normative Dead-End?” Constellations 22, no. 4: 487-499. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8675.12201.
Fossen, Thomas. 2019. “Constructivism and the Logic of Political Representation.” American Political Science Review 113, no. 3: 824-837. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055419000273.
Goodin, Robert E. 2007. “Enfranchising All Affected Interests, and Its Alternatives.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 35, no. 1: 40–68. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1088-4963.2007.00098.x.
Grossmann, Matthew. 2012. The Not-So-Special Interests: Interest Groups, Public Representation, and American Governance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1992. Faktizität und Geltung. Beiträge zur Diskurstheorie des Rechts und des demokratischen Rechtsstaats. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.
Halpin, Darren R. 2006. “The Participatory and Democratic Potential and Practice of Interest Groups: Between Solidarity and Representation.” Public Administration 84, no. 4: 919-940. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9299.2006.00618.x.
Houtzager, Peter P. and Adrian Gurza Lavalle. 2010. “Civil Society’s Claims to Political Representation in Brazil.” Studies in Comparative International Development 45, no. 1: 1-29. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12116-009-9059-7.
Intermann, Kristen. 2010. “25 Years of Feminist Empiricism and Standpoint Theory: Where Are We Now?” Hypatia 25, no. 4: 778-796. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527-2001.2010.01138.x.
Klüver, Heike and Mark Pickup. 2019. “Are They Listening? Public Opinion, Interest Groups and Government Responsiveness.” West European Politics 42, no. 1: 91-112. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2018.1483662.
Kuyper, Jonathan W. 2016. “Systemic Representation: Democracy, Deliberation, and Nonelectoral Representatives.” American Political Science Review 110, no. 2: 308-324. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055416000095.
Lord, Christopher and Johannes Pollak. 2013. “The Pitfalls of Representation as Claim-Making in the European Union.” Journal of European Integration 35, no. 5: 517-530. https://doi.org/10.1080/07036337.2013.799941.
McLaverty, Peter. 2002. “Civil Society and Democracy.” Contemporary Politics 8, no. 4: 303-318. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569770216068.
Montanaro, Laura. 2012. “The Democratic Legitimacy of Self-Appointed Representatives.” The Journal of Politics 74, no. 4: 1094-1107. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022381612000515.
Montanaro, Laura. 2018. Who Elected Oxfam? A Democratic Defence of Self-Appointed Representatives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108297721
Näsström, Sofia. 2011a. “The Challenge of the All-Affected Principle.” Political Studies 59, no. 1: 116–134. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2010.00845.x.
Näsström, Sofia. 2011b. “Where is the Representative Turn Going?” European Journal of Political Theory 10, no. 4: 501-510. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474885111417783.
Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkley: University of California Press.
Rehfeld, Andrew. 2006. “Towards a General Theory of Political Representation.” The Journal of Politics 68, no. 1: 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00365.x.
Rehfeld, Andrew. 2017. “What Is Representation? On Being and Becoming a Representative.” In Reclaiming Representation, edited by Mónica Brito Viera, 50-74. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315681696-3
Rolin, Kristina. 2009. “Standpoint Theory as a Methodology for the Study of Power Relations.” Hypatia 24, no. 4: 218-226. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1527- 2001.2009.01070.x.
Saward, Michael. 2006. “The Representative Claim.” Contemporary Political Theory 5, no. 3: 297-318. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300234.
Saward, Michael. 2010. The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199579389.001.0001
Saward, Michael. 2012. “Claims and Constructions. Critical Exchange on Michael Saward’s The Representative Claim.” Contemporary Political Theory 11, no 1: 109-127. https://doi.org/10.1057/cpt.2011.42.
Severs, Eline. 2010. “Representation as Claim-Making. Quid Responsiveness?” Representation 46, no. 4: 411-423. https://doi.org/10.1080/00344893.2010.518081.
Severs, Eline. 2012. “Substantive Representation Through a Claims-Making Lens: A Strategy for the Identification and Analysis of Substantive Claims.” Representation 48, no. 2: 169-181. https://doi.org/10.1080/00344893.2012.683491.
Squires, Judith. 2008. “The Constitutive Representation of Gender: Extra-parliamentary Re-presentations of Gender Relations.” Representation 44, no. 2: 187-204. https://doi.org/10.1080/00344890802080464.
Stoetzler, Marcel and Nira Yuval-Davis. 2002. “Standpoint Theory, Situated Knowledge and the Situated Imagination.” Feminist Theory 3, no. 3: 315-333. https://doi.org/10.1177/146470002762492024.
Strolovitch, Dara Z. 2006. “Do Interest Groups Represent the Disadvantaged? Advocacy at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender.” The Journal of Politics 68, no. 4: 894-910. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00478.x.
Urbinati, Nadia and Mark E. Warren. 2008. “The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory.” Annual Review of Political Science 11, no. 1: 387-412. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.053006.190533.
Young, Iris. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zimmermann, Germo and Jürgen Boeckh. 2018. “Politische Repräsentation schwacher sozialer Interessen durch Initiativen, Wohlfahrtsverbände und Parteien.” In Handbuch Armut und soziale Ausgrenzung. 3rd Edition, edited by Ernst-Ulrich Huster, Jürgen Boeckh and Hildegard Mogge-Grotjahn, 783-806. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-19077-4_34
How to Cite
Nuske, J. (2020). Who gets to judge? Approaching non-elected representative claims from constructivist interest-group theory. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 44, 7-25. https://doi.org/10.22151/politikon.44.1