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. See also proportional representation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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