Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 25/Apr/2018;12(2):e0004.
Representation, Epistemic Democracy, and Political Parties in John Stuart Mill and José de Alencar
John Stuart Mill and José de Alencar lived at the same time and wrote about the same issues, and yet the connections between their political theories remain unexplored. Seeking to offer a comparison of both theories, this article argues that reading Mill’s “Considerations on Representative Government” (1977b) vis-à-vis Alencar’s “Systema representativo” (1868) brings to the fore two aspects of Mill’s political theory that Mill scholars usually overlook: 01. political representation is endowed with constructivist power; 02. epistemic democracy and agonistic democracy can be mutually reinforcing. A comparative reading between Mill and Alencar reveals that representation does not simply reproduce or mirror pre-given ideas and identities, but also constructs them. In addition, it reveals that epistemic democracy is not at odds with agonistic democracy. To be sure, both Alencar and Mill were agonistic democrats precisely because they were epistemic democrats. They recognized conflict as a fundamental aspect of democracy because they believed political disagreement weeds out inaccurate information, expands the knowledge of politicians, and leads to the construction of more reasonable, wiser decisions. Thus, Alencar and Mill thought political parties were crucial to democracy insofar as they injected conflict into political debate.