Non-elected actors, such as non-governmental organizations and celebrity activists, present themselves as representatives of others to audiences of decision-makers, such as state leaders, the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization. These actors are increasingly included in the deliberation and decision-making processes of such institutions. To take one well-known example, the non-governmental organization, Oxfam, presses decision-makers and governments for fair trade rules on behalf of the world's poor. What entitles such 'self-appointed representatives' to speak and act for the poor? As The Economist asked, 'Who elected Oxfam?'. Montanaro claims that such actors can, and should, be conceptualized as representatives, and that they can - though do not always - represent others in a manner that we can recognize as democratic. However, in order to do so, we must stretch our imaginations beyond the standard normative framework of elections.
Laura Montanaro is Lecturer in Political Theory in the Department of Government at the University of Essex, specializing in the gaps between democratic theory and practice, and between democracy's norms and outcomes.
1. Democracy and its norms; 2. Self-appointed representation; 3. The dangers of self-appointed representation; 4. Non-electoral authorization and accountability; 5. Applying the theory; 6. Conclusion.