Fritz Gillerke, Universität Bayreuth

Posterity in Politics - A revised account of representing future generations

A pivotal insight of democratic theory is laid down in the so-called All Affected Principle. It states that whoever is affected by a political decision should have a say in the making of that decision. The argument gives rise to the claim that decisions about long-term transformations, like adaptation and mitigation of climate change or transformative impacts of digitisation, are fundamentally questions of global intergenerational justice.

In my projectI am taking seriously the idea that future generations should be given a voice in democratic decision-making. I distinguish between the two predominant interpretations of the All Affected Principle in literature; the Principle of All Affected Interests and the All Subjected Principle. I then outline the specific challenges that each interpretation faces with regards to future people and discuss the implications for their respective role in legitimising political decision-making. Secondly, I claim that the aforementioned interpretations of the All Affected Principle fail to legitimise any direct forms of representation for future generations. Since future generations are not subjected to the state in the same way current generations are, it would be illegitimate to grant their representatives strong decision-making powers like vote or veto. However, since future people will be affected in their interests, the Principle of All Affected Interests prescribes that future generations need to be considered, their arguments heard and their interests be taken into account. Hence, I conclude that any interpretation of the All Affected Principle will only support such indirect forms of representation for future people in democratic states.

Based on this argument, I suggest a two-tiered solution: Firstly, democracies should create and enable institutions in order to represent future generations in the deliberative process. Secondly, these institutions should focus on representing discourses around intergenerational justice rather than trying to represent individual interests of future people. The resulting conception of representation can be embedded into a broader range of existing literature, closing a gap between theories of deliberative democracy, recent trends in the theory of representation and intergenerational justice.