This article looks closely at the “crisis of representative democracy,” noting that this crisis is evident across the main variables of interest to political scientists (voting, party membership, trust in politicians, and interest in mainstream politics). The argument here is that the crisis is located not only in short term or contingent factors such as financial crisis, the decadence of the current generation of politicians or the emergence of New Public Management—which often appear as the villains of the piece. It is also located in long term and structural factors linked to the types of social and political interaction associated with “first modernity.” With the displacement of this temporality under post-Fordist, reflexive or “second” modernity, we are witnessing a different set of dynamics shape the terrain of politics. Globalization, individualization, and the proliferation of communicative platforms is taking us away from “vertical” interactions in which representative politics is typical, toward more distributed, flatter, or “horizontal” modes of sociality, working, and organizing—leaving us in a “post-representative” political moment.
Simon Tormey and Jean-Paul Gagnon
In reinterrogating core concepts from his 2015 book, The End of Representative Politics, Simon Tormey explains the nature of emergent, evanescent, and contrarian forms of political practice. He sheds light on what is driving the political disruption transpiring now through a series of engaging comments from the field on well-known initiatives like Occupy, #15M, and Zapatistas and also lesser-known experiments such as the creation of new political parties like Castelló en Moviment, among others. Postrepresentative representation, it is argued, is not an oxymoron; it, like the term antipolitical politics, is rather a provocative concept designed to capture the radically new swarming politics underway in countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Iceland. Citizens are tooling up with ICTs, and this has led to resonant political movements like #15M in Spain or Occupy more broadly. Key takeaways from this interview include the double-edged nature of representation and the fact that new forms of political representation are breaking the mould.