Is there a sound democratic case for raising the membership of young people in political parties and trade unions through descriptive representation?

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Thomas Tozer


Young people are seriously under-represented in both political parties and trade unions. I argue that a dependent conception of democracy interested in substantive equality, not merely formal equality, would support addressing this problem through descriptive representation. The essay begins by considering the requirements of democracy, and whether these can support a case for descriptive representation. Although descriptive representation entails democratic costs, there is a contingent case for group representation that is consistent with the aims of democracy. Young people, moreover, satisfy this case in terms of membership of political parties – but less so in the case of trade unions. Finally, the essay considers practical methods for improving young people’s representation in these.

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Author Biography

Thomas Tozer

Thomas recently graduated from the London School of Economics with an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy. His research interests are distributive justice, non-violent resistance and the appropriate reach of government policy into the choices of citizens. His published articles include: ‘Increasing Electoral Turnout Among the Young’ and ‘Transparency vs Leverage in our Representative Democracies’