Lena Halldenius
Lund University
For Mary Wollstonecraft, the moral purpose of government is to act on the principle of equality and protect the weak against the fact of inequality. The political day-to-day is characterized by classes and groups with competing interests, some more powerful than others. Wollstonecraft was a republican thinker and so it is reasonable to expect in her writings a notion of political society as representative, but how? After placing Wollstonecraft in relation to contemporary republicanism, we can see that Wollstonecraft’s notion of representation operates on different levels of right: constitutional and political. The “what” that is represented on is, respectively, authority of the people and the perspectives of groups or classes. The people as an abstract, idealized union, so crucial for many republicans, makes sense only on the constitutional level. The political field of law making and policy is an agonistic one where representation has to be practical and no unity is to be expected beyond class or group interests. That is why women and the labouring classes need to have their own interests represented by representatives who share their interests and perspectives.
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