Representative Bureaucracy in Action

Representative Bureaucracy in Action

Country Profiles from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia

Edited by B. Guy Peters, Patrick von Maravić and Eckhard Schröter

Taking a comparative and analytical perspective, the authoritatively, yet accessibly written, country chapters show how salient the politics of representativeness have become in increasingly diverse societies. At the same time, they illustrate the wide variety of practice based on different political systems, administrative structures, and cultural settings.

Chapter 10: Representative bureaucracy in Switzerland

Daniel Kübler

Subjects: politics and public policy, international politics, public policy


In the international debate on representative bureaucracy most of the work has focused on issues related to administrative performance. Scholars of public administration have been preoccupied with the question of whether representativeness of public bureaucracies hampers or rather improves administrative performance – empirical evidence tends to show that the latter is more likely the case (see Meier and Stewart, 1992). A second, although less developed strand of research in representative bureaucracy relates to state legitimacy. This kind of work focuses on whether the representation of different social groups within public bureaucracies contributes to making the wider state apparatus, as well as public policy-making more acceptable to these groups. In Switzerland, the issue of representative bureaucracy touches upon both of these aspects, as the public administration faces the double challenge of a multi-ethnic state and a society that, mainly for labor market reasons, increasingly depends on immigration. As in other multilingual societies (McRae, 2007) national cohesion in Switzerland strongly depends on finding the “right” balance between different ethno-linguistic communities. As we will see in this chapter, achieving adequate representation of the traditional linguistic communities – German, French, Italian, and Romanche – in the federal public administration is a crucial element in the web of power-sharing so characteristic of Swiss “consensus democracy” (Lijphart, 1999).

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