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From elected to connected: Designing for recursive representation

Nick Vlahos, Selen Ercan, Nardine Alnemr and John Dryzek (University of Canberra), Andrew Leigh  (MP)

Tue 4 May 2021

11:00am - 12:00pm

Virtual seminar

Seminar recording is available on our YouTube channel.


Recent thinking on improving the deliberative qualities of elected representation can be captured under the broad heading of what Jane Mansbridge terms recursive representation, which seeks ongoing interaction between representatives and their constituents. This paper explores the possibilities of facilitating such interaction by establishing a series of deliberative townhalls where the constituents meet their elected representatives and discuss the issues of common concern. Empirically, the paper draws on a recent experiment in ‘directly representative democracy’ in Australia, which involved designing two deliberative town halls with a Federal Member of the Parliament to discuss a controversial issue (mitochondrial donation) ahead of a parliamentary debate on this issue. Drawing on the interviews with the participants of these town halls, we argue that recursive representation works well in directly representative democracy to the degree three criteria of deliberative capacity are met: authenticity, inclusion and consequentiality. The paper unpacks the meaning of each criteria from the perspective of town hall participants and discusses their relevance for the theory and practice of recursive representation.

About the speakers

Nick Vlahos is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.

Selen Ercan is an Associate Professor of Politics at the Institute’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.

Nardine Alnemr is a PhD candidate at the entre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.

John Dryzek is Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Centenary Professor in the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.

Andrew Leigh is a Member of the Australian House of Representatives.

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