Exclusion by Design: Locating Power in Mansbridge’s Account of Descriptive Representation

Amanda Clayton, Diana O'Brien, Jennifer Piscopo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trumpism laid bare that, among U.S. Republican Party elites, white male dominance is not a historical artifact that time and opportunity will eventually correct. Rather, the absence of women and people of color seems intentional, because those with power do not want marginalized groups’ identities and interests represented. Reading Mansbridge’s 1999 piece in this light raises a critical question: how does the case for descriptive representation change when those in power reject and work against inclusion’s normative and substantive value? We call such efforts “bad faith exclusion,” to distinguish them from the path dependent exclusion that characterizes other accounts of marginalization, including the account offered by Mansbridge. For actors practicing bad faith exclusion, second-class citizenship is not a historical artifact, but a foundational and essential element of the political system. Factoring in bad faith exclusion means that descriptive representation requires strong safeguards, suggesting that mechanisms like gender quotas - about which Mansbridge expressed skepticism - may be needed to secure the participation of marginalized groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1251-1255
Number of pages5
JournalPolitics & Gender
Issue number4
Early online date15 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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