The Claim to Representation in Associative Systems

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Matilde LUNA, UNAM, Mexico
Jose VELASCO, UNAM, Mexico
This paper should contribute to answering one general question: how political representation is constructed outside of the institutions that are formally acknowledged as representative.

This extra-institutional representation is abundant and variegated. It can be found in social movements, social organizations, neighborhoods, NGO's and many other political arrangements.

Our analysis centers on one variant: representation that exists within complex associative systems. These systems are characterized by voluntary cooperation among diverse actors, both official and private, who try to solve a perceived public problem that public institutions, by themselves, cannot or will not solve.

This sort of representation is largely self-constructed: representatives have to earn the right to portray themselves, and to be recognized, as such. Hence, it shows, in stark terms, something that is normally neglected or underestimated: that political representation is, above all, a claim—always contestable—according to which some people are said to act, speak or decide in the name of others.

The question that this paper seeks to answer is the following: how is the claim to representation formulated and validated in these associative systems? More specifically: Who formulates this claim—all members of the associative system or some individual participants? To whom is it addressed? How is it tailored to the different identities of these addressees (for example, official representatives, the intended constituency, the other claimants to representation)? What principles and meanings of representation are invoked to back it? What duties, tasks and rights are attributed to the representatives and the people they claim to represent?

To answer these questions, we focus on two cases that are different enough to give us a reasonable idea of how the claim to representation varies in this context. Our data comes from the review of relevant documents and some interviews with key participants.