Descriptive Representation and AIDS olicy in South Africa

Author(s): Evan Lieberman 

Status/Format: Published

Date: 2012

Publication Type: Journal Article

Publisher: Contemporary Politics

Volume and Issue: 18(2)

Page Numbers: 156 - 173


The global AIDS pandemic raises key questions with respect to Pitkin’s seminal concerns for the descriptive and substantive representation of diverse citizen interests. Specifically, are there ‘group interests’ for AIDS-related policies, and are they represented by political
leaders? One might expect all politicians to prioritize a response to the global pandemic as a matter of public interest, especially in high prevalence countries. Alternatively, because recognizable sub-groups are affected differently, theories of representation imply that
leader preferences should vary along these lines. The author explores the local political representation of AIDS-related interests within the context of the high prevalence, heterogeneous, and democratic society of South Africa. Through analysis of an original survey of the attitudes and preferences of local cancillors in Eastern Cape Province, he found that descriptive representation is associated with substantive representation: politicians express AIDS policy preferences in accordance with race- and gender-based
interests, albeit in different ways.