Bernard Manin Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Representative Government

The book "The Principles of Representative Government" is one of the best recent attempts made by any author study political theory that guides governmental structure and influences the changes that has occurred in the form of government since ancient times. Bernard Manin presents his arguments in a lucid manner however the book does suffer from its fair share of weaknesses that we shall discuss later in the paper. For now, it is important to understand that Manin's book revolves around the thesis that democracy is not exactly established with the help of representative government. The latter was meant to control the deficiencies of democracy and not to give it excessive powers. He writes: "Contemporary democratic governments have evolved from a political system that was conceived by its founders as opposed to democracy.... What today we call representative democracy has its origins in a system of institutions... that was in no way initially perceived as a form of democracy or of government by the people" (1).

While the book has a thesis, it is not well defined and is not as properly pursued. More attention has been paid to the method of selecting government representatives as the author feels that selection method says a lot about the influence, scope and effectiveness of government. He starts with the way Athenian governments selected representative. This method has been termed selection by lot. This method has largely been abandoned today in the name of democratic rule. The author feels that selection by lot was not altogether an impractical way of choosing representatives as he argues that "lot was not totally impracticable" (p. 82) Manin explains that the selection method 'lot' was quite popular for a long time in city-states but by late 18th century, it had been replaced by other selection systems. "Never was it seriously considered during the American and French revolutions" (p. 79). Interestingly Manin feels that selection by lot was a more democratic way of choosing representatives and in his research he found that selection by lot was more closely connected with democracy while election was found in oligarchies.

Important political theorists such as Harrington, Montesquieu, and Rousseau were also more in favor of lottery system since they could see the democratic principles on which this method was based. Lottery system allowed everyone an opportunity to apply for governmental positions. However the same kind of democracy is completely missing from election system where majority is excluded and few are selected for limited seats. Two leading politicians discarded lottery system in America and France namely James Madison and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyes respectively. They are responsible for designing the structure of new representative government and for introducing the election system, which though gave, rise to democratic rule was less democratic in nature than governments chosen by the lottery system.

Manin feels that the conflict that was witnessed at the time of ratification of the constitution was also closely connected with the election system. Anti-federalists were more in favor of a direct form of democracy and felt that election system could endanger the spirit of democracy.

Manin maintains that a representative government is based on four important principles. The first one is the obvious i.e. representatives are chosen by means of an election. The second one identifies independence from the electorate, the third on focuses on the extent of freedom the public enjoys under representative government. The last principle deals with public policy development procedure. While Manin understands that the strength…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bernard Manin. 1997. The principles of representative government. Cambridge:

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