Representative bureaucracy - what, why and how? Evidence from the European commission

Anne Stevens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Issues of representation have become increasingly salient in European countries with attempts to find mechanisms to increase the representation of women, including various types of quota and parity legislation. This article examines the extension of the idea to bureaucracies. It looks at two arguments about this extension: should bureaucracies be regarded as places where representation can and should occur, and, even if representation in bureaucracies is regarded as possible, is it desirable. Having concluded that it is both possible and desirable, the article then examines the outworking of the notion of representation within one bureaucracy, the European Commission, on the basis of the considerations applied by feminists to elected representation. The example of the EC illuminates aspects of representative bureaucracy, and supports a normative argument for representation on the basis of symbolic, justice and deliberative arguments even if the agency argument must be nuanced by the need to avoid partiality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-139
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2009


  • bureaucracy
  • discrimination
  • European Commission
  • representation
  • women


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