Broadly, my research explores gaps between democratic theory and practice, and its norms and outcomes, with a focus on inequality and democratic practices that can counteract inequality.
My book manuscript, Who Elected Oxfam? (Cambridge University Press), begins with the observation that ours is an era in which non-elected actors, such as non-governmental organisations and celebrity activists, present themselves as representatives of others to audiences of decision-makers, such as state leaders, the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organisation. Oxfam, for example, presses decision-makers and governments for fair trade rules on behalf of the world’s poor. What entitles such ‘self-appointed representatives’ to speak and act for the poor? As The Economist asked, “Who elected Oxfam?”
The book refutes a reigning assumption with respect to self-appointed representation: that it simply is not and cannot be democratic. The Economist’s question was rhetorical: it assumed that “No one elected Oxfam” is both the answer to their question and the last word about Oxfam’s democratic credentials. The central claim of the book is that such actors can, and should, be conceptualised as representatives, and that they can – though do not necessarily – represent others in a manner that we can recognise as democratic, though we must stretch our imaginations beyond the standard normative framework of elections to do so.
List of Publications:
Laura Montanaro. 2018. Who Elected Oxfam? Cambridge University Press.
Laura Montanaro. Forthcoming. “Who Counts as a Democratic Representative?” In Giving Presence: The New Politics of Democratic Representation. Eds. Johannes Pollack and Dario Castiglione. University of Chicago Press
Laura Montanaro. 2017. “Representing Affected Interests.” In Reclaiming Representation. Ed. Mónica Brito-Vieira. Routledge Press
Laura Montanaro. 2014. "Representation." In the Encyclopaedia of Political Thought. Ed. Michael T. Gibbons. New York: Wiley-Blackwell
Laura Montanaro. 2012. "The Democratic Legitimacy of Self-Appointed Representatives." The Journal of Politics 74 (4): 1094-1107