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In a representative democracy, sovereignty is diarchic — that is, it comprises two elements: The will is linked to the power of decision and is instantiated in the act of voting. When citizens vote for a candidate and incumbents vote for laws, they both exercise their will. Judgment, in turn, pertains to the domain of opinion and, unlike the will, can be represented. Its realm of existence is located in what Mill a , p. As Mill a , p. The existence of a concentrated and homogeneous power of discourse formation represents a grave threat to democracy.


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Mill's b conviction that the struggle between conflicting political positions led the representative assembly to make better decisions was one of the reasons why he defended proportional representation. Once representatives from minority groups were elected, conflicting positions would be voiced in the assembly. Politicians representing the majority would be forced to take into account opposing perspectives and review the cogency of their argument. The exchange of arguments between representatives of different social groups would be beneficial to the polity because it would allow the assembly to reach wiser and more inclusive decisions.

Like many other writers of his century, Mill was influenced by the Bildungstradition: According to the Bildungstradition , self-development is inextricably bound up with the experience of conflict. If one is to develop oneself, one has to struggle with one's social environment. To be sure, one of the central ideas of romanticism is that the development and exercise of an individual's faculties require conflict BERLIN, , p. In sum, Mill's appreciation for conflict as a prime source of human development is indebted to the Bildungstradition.

As the next section highlights, this thesis brings Mill close to Alencar, who also contended that conflict fostered human development. Since human beings can only develop themselves through conflict, a society devoid of the latter is inevitably going to deteriorate:. No one of the ancient forms of society contained in itself that systematic antagonism, which we believe to be the only condition under which stability and progressiveness can be permanently reconciled to one another. At no time has Europe been free from a contest of rival powers for dominion over society MILL, b , pp.

The antagonism between different political forces was productive because it forced political communities in Europe to compromise and tolerate one another. Obviously enough, the conflict Mill values is constructive, not destructive. Political antagonism is useful insofar as it produces compromises and mutual tolerance. The aim of representing different social groups in the assembly is not to encourage legislative gridlock.

Rather, it is to compel representatives from the majority to take into account objections and to compromise with representatives from the minority and vice versa. While supporting proportional representation, Mill b , pp. Mill reputed imperative mandates to be deleterious because they ossify political preferences and obstruct the transformations that a plural deliberation orchestrated by a truly representative assembly of the demos can produce.

Political deliberation requires participants to cultivate a non-dogmatic stance and to recognize themselves as fallible beings. To the extent it is dialogical, deliberation must not be equated with a succession of monologues that do not communicate because their positions are fully formed in advance. Democratic deliberation is a dialogue in which participants are willing to take into account others' positions and even to change their initial assumptions if need be.

Representatives cannot foresee every opinion that will be fleshed out in the assembly. Thus, it is unreasonable to prohibit them from changing their views. In short, Mill believes imperative mandates and pledges should not be adopted because they deny the very notion of democratic deliberation as a site of re formulation of new practices and ideas. Like Mill b , he notices that representative democracy differs from the democracy of the ancients:.

True and pure democracy is the government of all people by all people, of the nation by the nation, the autonomy of the state that the English with much propriety expressed with the simple phrase self-government … The only representation capable of performing with rigorous faithfulness such democracy is the one in which all the opinions of a country … can choose their legitimate representatives. One of the major differences between representative democracy and Athenian democracy is the electoral system.

Whereas in Athens the decision-making body was open to every citizen, in representative democracy only elected representatives have the power to vote in the assembly and decide which course of action the government shall take. Yet Alencar does not think this division of labor dooms representative government to be undemocratic:.

The study of ancient democracy and of the way in which it operated guides the reason and truth of the representative system. In the agora of Athens … one deliberated and discussed. The Tribune was the people's, open and free to every citizen; all classes had a voice there. According to Alencar , one way to reproduce it is to make sure that the representative assembly contains all the voices of the nation.

Every shade of opinion must be represented in the political assembly — the task of representation is to construct a polyphonic map of the nation ALENCAR, , p. All different, even conflicting, voices of the demos must be contemplated in the assembly, and none of them ought to asphyxiate the others. The fact that most citizens in a representative democracy are outside the decision-making body does not make them powerless. Representation is democratic when citizens outside representative bodies can influence those who are inside them.

Put differently, representation is democratic when representatives are under popular control.

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For that reason, Alencar , p. Representative democracy is the regime of indirectness. It creates a gap between the moment of discussion and the moment of decision, thus highlighting the reflexive and temporal aspect of politics URBINATI, , pp. Compared to direct democracy, representative democracy tends to produce decisions that are more intelligent because it is less immediate. Alencar and Mill belong to the tradition initiated by Condorcet and Paine [] Representation favors reflexivity because it gives people more time to refine their judgment and expand their perspective. Like Mill, Alencar , p.

Representative government ceases to be democratic once it starts contemplating only the demands of the majority. Democracy should not be conflated with majority rule:. But the world has marched; progress opened up new spheres to science. Democracy is characterized not only by equality before the law isonomia but also by the equal power to have your political views expressed and considered isegoria.

Ascribing one vote to each person is therefore not enough. Democracy requires that judicial equality be complemented with mechanisms that ensure equal power of expression for all political views. In sum, anyone who is concerned with preserving the democratic character of representative government must elaborate devices that guarantee the representation of minority views.

Mill also grappled with the issue of how to preserve minority views in the parliament, and the solution he offered resembles Alencar's. Yet Mill was not the first author to recommend proportional representation as a solution for the conundrum of minorities' representation. Although both of them were in favor of proportional representation, Alencar , p. In order to avoid such complexity, Alencar rejected ranked voting and advocated for a simpler proportional representation scheme.

According to his plan, each elector could vote for only one party. This way the composition of the representative body would preserve the plurality of the opinions held by the electorate and prevent the tyranny of the majority. Be that as it may, one could object that the opinion of some minorities — viz. Following Mill, he was against pledges and imperative mandates because he thought politicians needed to be able to scrutinize the positions they represented in order to deliberate properly.

Representation, Epistemic Democracy, and Political Parties in John Stuart Mill and José de Alencar

One cannot deliberate with people who hold different views if one is not willing to take opposing arguments into account and to review one's initial assumptions. Drawing upon Mill's b , p. But propose a question to the assembly. Immediately, individual impressions will be produced: When, after this assimilation, one has to poll votes, the measure that receives the greatest number [of votes] without a doubt is going to be the universal will.

The minority would also have contributed to the formation of this sovereignty. Its resistance stirred conflicting intelligences to react and incited them to better develop and ascertain their ideas. By scrutinizing the opposing opinion, [the minority] wounded the adversary's weak points and forced him to retract and modify his former thought ALENCAR, , p. Unlike most citizens, representatives cannot afford to deliberate about political issues only with like-minded people. Once inside the representative assembly, a politician has to deliberate with people who think very differently than she does.

The objections she is confronted with might highlight the shortcomings of her view and, according to Alencar , force her to modify her original position. Yet such modification does not erase all disagreement between herself and political opponents. Deliberation is the moment when different political views can merge and coalesce. However, since opposing political views almost never assimilate completely, deliberation has to give way to aggregative procedures such as voting. If decisions were to be made on the basis of complete consensus, representative assemblies would almost never get any work done.

The most sensible procedure to adopt is to let representatives deliberate for a while and then if disagreement persists — and Alencar's view is that disagreement will always persist — ask representatives to vote for the proposal they like the most. Notice that Alencar does not mention the need for unanimity.

In truth, unanimity was neither necessary nor desirable for him:. The government of all people by all people does not imply unanimity. The development of reason — one core element of the self for both Mill and Alencar — requires conflict. Thus, insofar as the representative assembly works as a privileged site for the expression and production of conflict, the development of reason hinges upon representation.

Political representation has constructivist power because the struggle between opposing perspectives in the assembly produces new ideas, beliefs, and opinions that change the way citizens reason and see themselves. Likewise, it refutes the thesis that citizens would be nothing but isolated beings with pre-given and unchangeable preferences and sheds light on the fact that citizens trans form their preferences and identities collectively.

The ideas that representatives express in the assembly oftentimes result from a previous union of individuals. Conversely, their unfolding inside the assembly tends to promote the gathering of other individuals, either in support or opposition to them.

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Ultimately, both the representative and the represented possess the power to construct the political identity of one another. Through her discursive practices in the assembly, the representative projects and furthers a certain image of the group she represents in front of the nation. Mill b and Alencar's theories show that political representation is performative. The speeches a representative makes inside the assembly are performative because they produce reality. Not long after being elected, Mill wrote: This idea was already present in his early writings.

When he proposed a bill to extend suffrage to women, Mill was aware that his proposal was not going to be approved. Yet the passionate speeches he delivered in the assembly to defend the proposal and the conflicting debates he had with some of the MPs who opposed the measure were not in vain. Mill did not care in this case about what was going to happen inside the assembly. Given his constructivist view of political representation, Mill knew that what mattered was the performative effects of his speeches, not the legislative outcome per se.

His purpose was to call into being new collectivities that would advocate for the cause of women, not to approve that specific law. From that perspective, Mill was successful, for the speeches he delivered in the assembly prompted the creation of the National Society for Women's Suffrage and changed the way citizens reasoned about this issue LE JEUNE, , p.

His political performance constitutes thus a good example of what Disch , p. For Mill, political representation does not only reflect and transmit pre-given demands; it creates them as it actively mobilizes new constituencies. The connection between epistemic and agonistic democracy and the role of political parties.

The second aspect of Mill's political theory that Mill scholars sometimes overlook and that Alencar helps us envisage pertains to the complementarity between epistemic and agonistic democracy. Cowling's interpretation of Mill was influenced by Michael Oakeshott , p. In a similar vein, Urbinati , pp. According to Urbinati , those who see democracy as a quest for truth are incapable of appreciating the value of conflict because for them the persistence of disagreement is nothing but a sign of error.

In short, epistemic democracy and agonistic democracy are at odds with one another. A comparative reading between Mill and Alencar, however, reveals that agonistic democracy and epistemic democracy can be mutually reinforcing. When he builds upon Mill's b , p. Alencar and Mill recognized conflict as a fundamental aspect of democracy because they believed political disagreement weeds out inaccurate information, expands the knowledge of politicians and leads to the construction of more reasonable, wiser decisions.

Put differently, their theories afford what one could call an epistemic-agonistic model of democracy. The construction of knowledge and the pursuit of truth cannot proceed without conflict. The absence of conflict inevitably causes decay — recall Mill's a , p. Mill and Alencar's appreciation for parties and partisanship epitomizes the complementarity between the epistemic and agonistic strands that permeate their political theory. Unless opinions favourable … to sociality and individuality, to liberty and discipline, and all the other standing antagonisms of practical life, are expressed with equal freedom, and enforced and defended with equal talent and energy, there is no chance of both elements obtaining their due; one scale is sure to go up, and the other down.

Truth, in the great practical concerns of life, is so much a question of the reconciling and combining of opposites, that very few have minds sufficiently capacious and impartial to make the adjustment with an approach to correctness, and it has to be made by the rough process of a struggle between combatants fighting under hostile banners MILL, a , pp. According to Alencar , p. Truth can be unveiled only when all different political perspectives confront each other, and to the extent that parties are responsible for bringing those different perspectives into collision, they are indispensable to representative democracy Partisanship and parties must be valued due to their cognitive benefits.

Political parties institutionalize conflict and thus carry out their contest within constitutional boundaries By claiming that partisanship can be useful to representative democracy, Mill's and Alencar's works diverge from contemporary political writers — such as John Dewey , p. Mill and Alencar recommended partisanship because a partisan's partiality leads her to scrutinize a political problem in a profound way, which in turn might allow her to improve the overall epistemic quality of political debate.

Pace Carl Schmitt , p. Partisanship is compatible with critical thinking and can be conducive to truth Indeed, studies show that the idea that the absence of partisanship spawns critical thinking tends to be wrong, for non-partisan individuals are usually more apathetic and less informed than partisan citizens ROSENBLUM, , pp. As epistemic democrats, Mill and Alencar subscribe to what Landemore , pp. They thus corroborate Berlin's , p.

Since they assume that political deliberation is an epistemic exercise, Alencar and Mill believe that competence is important for political representation. When we vote for a representative, one of the criteria we take into account is her ability to defend our interests successfully in the political assembly.

We hope our representative is able to advance skillfully the complaints that are most dear to us. The task of a representative assembly is to select laws that will apply across the country, and it is obvious that the good performance of this task requires ability. A lot of what is involved in implementing legislation is technical: Lottery was rejected because it allowed any kind of citizen to take office, irrespective of his excellence.

Although Mill and Alencar asserted that representative government could only be legitimate if it were democratic, their reason for preferring election and not lottery as the proper mechanism for the selection of representatives was very similar to the one presented by the eighteenth-century framers of representative government. The people thus became hard to read but at the same time sovereign, and this raised the question of how best to give them voice and make them responsible. I, Paris, Didier, , p. In fact, it denoted two different realities. One was mathematical in nature: The other was sociological and political: At the end of the eighteenth century, many authors, including a number of mathematicians such as Condorcet and Jean-Charles de Borda had proposed electoral systems that would purportedly satisfy both of these requirements.

In , Thomas Hare, an Englishman, presented a proportional method to fulfill the same purpose in his Treatise on the Election of Representatives, Parliamentary and Municipal. Like Mill, Hare had observed the gradual expansion of the suffrage in Great Britain in the wake of the Reform Bill of He therefore introduced an electoral scheme that he hoped would ensure that the propertied classes would retain a voice by allowing them to pool their votes in order to ensure their representation.

In his view, the political exclusion of any individual was degrading. With such a presence it would no longer be allowed to exercise power in fact but would be able to make its objections heard if there were an injustice against the less numerous class. Following an analysis developed by Tocqueville in Democracy in America, Mill anxiously noted that the expansion of political rights was reducing standards of taste and mores: We can also understand why the proportional system gained adherents under the Second Empire, just as French readers were gaining access to the Considerations, at a time when public debate about these issues was just beginning.

Indeed, in the early s, the imperial regime adopted a number of liberal measures.

La idea de libertad según John Stuart Mill

Leaders of the opposition who had been arrested after the coup of were amnestied in August of , and this, together with a general shift in political leadership, encouraged a resumption of debate and a flourishing of new points of view. Questions about the mode of election were widely discussed, transcending ideological cleavages. For example, Philippe Buchez, who had served as president of the Constituent Assembly, considered this issue at length in his political testament.

Nadia Urbinati, Mill on Democracy. Histoire du suffrage universel en France, Paris, Gallimard, , p. Mill is grappling here with an ideal, which he believes human societies will approach as they gain in knowledge and civilization. That ideal is government by all the people—by all the people equally represented.


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Upon considering the consequences of realizing this ideal, however, the author is struck by the danger of placing power in the hands of the multitude, so he is reduced to wrecking with one hand the edifice that he has just constructed with the other. Indeed, the opposition was having a hard time making its voice heard in the legislature, where the imperial government had a comfortable majority.

The government chose and supported official candidates, to whom it offered financial and logistical support and who in turn benefited from the popularity of Napoleon III. On the one hand, from the point of view of women themselves, Mill argued that to grant them the right to vote was to give them the opportunity to develop qualities such as autonomy, impartiality, and prudence, which a purely domestic existence did not allow.

On the other hand, from the social point of view, to include women in the political community would, Mill argued, improve the quality of the electorate as a whole. In homes where greater equality prevailed between spouses, exchanges would have a more political tenor: It is not very surprising to learn that most French readers of the Considerations were either opposed to or skeptical of its plea on behalf of feminism. Hence granting women access to the political community was rejected not only by conservatives but also by liberals, republicans, and even socialists, as the missed opportunity of suggests.

Trois figures critiques du pouvoir , Paris, Albin Michel, His most mature work on the subject, On the Subjugation of Women , was also written in the early s.

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It developed in depth arguments that were merely broached in the Considerations. What Legacy in France? Mill, Autobiography,and Literary Essays, edited by J. The situation in England was similar: To take just one example, the idea of minority representation, and the system of voting that Hare proposed to achieve it and that Mill supported, was discussed in the first chapter of La France nouvelle, and this led to a new vogue for this idea at the very end of the Second Empire. In fact, certain of the ideas developed in the Considerations became influential in a very specific historical and institutional context: This was a period in which the National Assembly, dominated by conservatives, was obliged to reckon with new political forces in attempting to define the new regime.

Dynastic rivalries, growing republican influence, and the persistence of Bonapartism in the lower classes necessitated a variety of compromises. After August , opinion shifted gradually toward the idea of a president of the Republic invested with extensive powers and a relatively long seven-year term.

Between and a series of constitutional laws reinforced the power of the presidency. Among other things, he was granted the power to initiate legislation, along with the Chamber of Deputies. This idea of the executive did not stem from republican political theory, which in still preferred the notion of an impersonal and shared executive power.

Passy deplored the fact that Mill dealt with both the prime minister and the president without distinguishing between constitutional monarchies and republics, even though the principles on which executive power was based differed between the two regimes. A range of particular interests—social classes, professional bodies, organized groups, even localities—would thereby regain the visibility they had allegedly lost as a result of universal suffrage.

He warned, moreover, that a precautionary measure of this sort would prove to be laughable in view of the ineluctable advance of democracy, a view that he shared with Tocqueville. In April he filed a bill that Jaume sees as typical of conservative — liberal concerns in this period.