The Politics of Local Presence: Is there a Case for Descriptive Representation?
Version of Record online: 10 JUN 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Political Studies Association
Volume 59, Issue 1, pages 1–19, March 2011
How to Cite
Childs, S. and Cowley, P. (2011), The Politics of Local Presence: Is there a Case for Descriptive Representation?. Political Studies, 59: 1–19. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2010.00846.x
- Issue online: 5 FEB 2011
- Version of Record online: 10 JUN 2010
- (Accepted: 11 September 2009)
The case for greater descriptive representation of groups such as women and ethnic minorities has become widely, though not wholly, accepted in much of the academic literature and in the ‘real world’ of politics in most advanced democracies. In the UK the goal of greater descriptive representation of women has often become framed as a zero-sum game against men, especially local men, with consequences for the descriptive representation of women. This article examines whether claims made for the descriptive representation of women and black candidates can and should apply to local candidates, whatever their sex or race. It draws a distinction between the representation of a territory (common to most representative systems) and the representation of a territory by someone from that territory, a similar distinction to the difference common in the gender and politics literature between the representation of women by an elected representative and the representation of women by women representatives. The article also distinguishes between a hard and a soft form of this argument. The latter applies to almost every constituency in the UK, but it is a claim not based on arguments for the presence of the disadvantaged. However, the case for a local candidate to represent a more disadvantaged constituency, the harder form of the argument, can be made on almost all of the criteria applied to other excluded groups identified in the politics of presence literature.