‘Losing Touch’ In a Democracy: Demands versus Needs

Robert E. Lane

in Elitism, Populism, and European Politics

Published in print March 1996 | ISBN: 9780198280354
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599422 | DOI:
 ‘Losing Touch’ In a Democracy: Demands versus Needs

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The delegate theory of representation emphasizes responsiveness to public demands, while the trustee theory stresses response to public needs. Delegate theory, based on evaluative individualism, assumes that each person should decide in a market‐based context. In practice, such reliance is often more disruptive and less humane than reliance on needs. Compared to political elites, mass publics are less interested in politics, less tolerant of conflicting opinions and disliked groups, more nationalistic, less able to weigh policy costs, and more unstable and inconsistent.

Keywords: delegate theory; elites; individualism; mass publics; policy costs; public demands; public needs; representation; trustee theory

Chapter.  13754 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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