Representation and the interests of political minorities Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Wilson, Yolonda Yvette
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • It was not uncommon to hear North Carolinians say, Jesse Helms does not represent me. Yet, for thirty years Jesse Helms was a duly elected senator from that state. So, in some sense, he did represent the citizens of North Carolina. How can this be true? How can a representative system of government, working precisely according to the specification of the law, leave a large group of those who are so governed finding themselves to be unrepresented? I use a two-pronged strategy to approach the problem. First, I focus on the aims of representative government and whether being in the minority undermines the goals of representative systems. I argue that it does, and that consequently, we must rethink the morality of representative systems, especially those in which the same people consistently lose. Representative government is a means through which the state can achieve its ends without requiring every citizen to be active in reaching every decision. Citizens have interests, and these interests often compete with one another. So, citizens have (or should have) a stake in who represents them. Second, I focus on political minorities. The mere fact of losing elections is not sufficient warrant for state intervention on behalf of minorities. Building on the work of John Stuart Mill and Lani Guinier, I offer conditions that would need to be satisfied in order to warrant such intervention. If we take seriously the aims of representative government, then we should be deeply concerned about protecting political minorities in societies where the fact of political minority status is fixed, the groups are consistently social and political minorities, and the differences in power between the majority and minorities permeate the society.
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  • Boxill, Bernard
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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