Democracy and Representation: Interpreting the Paradox Through Rousseau

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SIYASAL-JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCES, vol.29, no.2, pp.403-430, 2020 (ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 29 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.26650/siyasal.2020.29.2.0030
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.403-430
  • Keywords: Democracy, representation, representative democracy, Rousseau, Social Contract
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: Yes


This study aims to examine the problem of "creating" citizen envisagement within a democracy. Its reference point for this is based on the ruler-governed construct within the framework of the occurrence of modern State phenomena in the utmost rulership form as considered through the theoretical perspective of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The fact that the people who are the sovereign force with regards to the policies they are engaged in are not in a position of decision-making, which is a benchmark of constitutionalism in representative democracy and thus brings about the controversy as to whether or not these representative regimes are legitimately democratic. After the English, American and French Revolutions, the paradoxical co-occurrence of representation and democracy, which can be seen when they are considered simultaneously, can be seen to resemble the Roman God Janus with its cynically retro- and forward-looking faces. It is possible to analyze the paradoxical co-occurrence of representation and democracy with reference to the notion of a "Modern Janus" because the ground of legitimacy in the conception of representative democracy is not only based on an abstract fiction of national unity for the presently existing public, but also because this base is constructed through the practice of representation. When the fiction of representative democracy in the relationship between the ruler and ruled is traced theoretically, it becomes apparent how and under which conditions the occurrence of the paradox to be analyzed in the context of the notions of democracy and representation emerges. The paradoxical association of representation and democracy will be analyzed in reference to Rousseau's Social Contract through the suggestion that such representative democracy is a Modern Janus, which on the one hand regards individuals as a subject while also objectifying them on the other hand.