Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics, Professor of Politics and Director, Program in Political Philosophy
Princeton University


For the People? Representative Government in America

Lecture I: Intimations of Failure
Monday, October 17, 2022
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni HouseCharles Beitz
with commentary by Martin Gilens


Lecture II: Regulating Rivalry
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Pamela S. Karlan and Jane Mansbridge

Seminar and Discussion with the commentators
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
4:10 p.m. – 6:15 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House
with commentary by Martin Gilens, Pamela S. Karlan, and Jane Mansbridge

About Charles Beitz

Charles Beitz is Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics at Princeton University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 2001. His teaching focuses on topics in contemporary global and democratic theory and the history of modern political philosophy. He is the author of Political Theory and International Relations (1979, rev. ed. 1999), Political Equality: An Essay in Democratic Theory (1989), and The Idea of Human Rights (2009). His recent papers include essays on topics in the theory of human rights, the fairness of partisan gerrymandering, and moral questions in property law.

At Princeton, Beitz has been director of the University Center for Human Values and the Program in Political Philosophy. Before coming to Princeton, he was dean for academic affairs and professor of government at Bowdoin College and, previously, professor of political science at Swarthmore College. He was review editor and, later, editor of Philosophy & Public Affairs. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim, Macarthur, and Rockefeller foundations and the ACLS. He holds awards for graduate and undergraduate teaching at Princeton and the Pi Sigma Alpha award for distinguished teaching of the American Political Science Association.

Beitz earned the B.A., summa cum laude, in history at Colgate University, the M.A. in philosophy at the University of Michigan, and the M.A. and Ph.D. in politics and political philosophy at Princeton.


About the Lectures

It has become a commonplace that democracy in the United States faces an existential threat. This belief has gained popular currency in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, nourished by his conduct in office, the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, and continuing efforts to subvert the electoral process. Whether this is true only time will tell. But a common narrative among scholars of American government holds that representative democracy is failing more systematically than the Trump phenomenon suggests. Unprecedented levels of elite polarization, extreme partisan gerrymandering, weakened party institutions, easing of restrictions on campaign finance, and other forces—all in the context of rising levels of economic inequality—have produced dysfunction that subverts healthy political competition. A gridlocked Congress has not offered solutions to broadly recognized public problems. Legislation favors the interests of elites when they conflict with those of the majority. In this perspective, the Trump phenomenon concealed a deeper malfunction of political representation.

For those interested in the moral basis of representative democracy, the narrative of malfunction raises two questions. First, are the symptoms documented by political scientists really failures? What norms of democratic representation do they infringe? This is a problem of diagnosis. Second, approaching the subject more constructively, what would successful democratic representation look like? If we grant that democratic politics is unavoidably a form of regulated rivalry, what would it mean for its regulation to be fair and effective? This is a problem of prescription. The first lecture will address the problem of diagnosis. The second will explore the problem of prescription.

Political scientists, constitutional lawyers, and democratic theorists consider norms of democratic representation in literatures whose paths cross too seldom. They do not agree about the meaning of fair and effective representation. Democratic theory is perhaps the area to which one would look for insight, but for the most part it has been too remote from political practice to illuminate the problems of our recent institutional history. These lectures will try to bring the theory of democratic representation into closer contact with its troubled American practice. They aspire to articulate reasonable norms for democratic representation through critical engagement with the findings of scholars who have studied it in the wild.

About the Commentators

Martin Gilens

Chair, Department of Public Policy; Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare
University of California, Los Angeles

Martin Gilens is Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare at UCLA. His research examines representation, public opinion, and mass media, especially in relation to inequality and public policy. Professor Gilens is the author of Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, and Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy, and coauthor (with Benjamin I. Page) of Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do about It. He has published widely on political inequality, mass media, race, gender, and welfare politics. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and the Russell Sage Foundation. Professor Gilens is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and taught at Yale and Princeton universities before joining the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA in 2018.

Pamela S. Karlan

Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law
Stanford Law School

A productive scholar and an award-winning teacher, Pamela S. Karlan is co-director of the Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.  One of the nation’s leading experts on voting and the political process, she has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, an assistant counsel and cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (where she received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service – the department’s highest award for employee performance – as part of the team responsible for implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor). Professor Karlan is the co-author of leading casebooks on constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and the law of democracy, as well as numerous scholarly articles.

Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1998, she was a professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law and served as a law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Abraham D. Sofaer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Karlan is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and the American Law Institute.

Jane Mansbridge

Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, Emerita
Harvard Kennedy School

Jane Mansbridge is the Charles F. Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at the Harvard Kennedy School, Emerita. She is the author of Beyond Adversary Democracy, an empirical and normative study of face-to-face democracy, and the award-winning Why We Lost the ERA, a study of anti-deliberative dynamics in social movements based on organizing for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She is also editor or coeditor of the volumes Beyond Self-Interest, Feminism, Oppositional Consciousness, Deliberative Systems, Negotiating Agreement in Politics, and The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy. She was President of the American Political Science Association in 2012-13. She is also the recipient of the international Johan Skytte Prize (2018), the foremost prize in the field of political science. Her current work includes studies of representation, democratic deliberation, everyday activism, and the public understanding of free-rider problems.