Politics of Representative Bureaucracy

Politics of Representative Bureaucracy

Power, Legitimacy and Performance

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

What is the relationship between the composition of the public sector workforce and the nature of the society it serves? Taking a comparative and analytical perspective, the authoritative and accessible chapters illustrate the salience of representative politics in diverse societies. The book explores the wide variety of practice based on different political systems, administrative structures, and cultural settings, and discusses topical issues of public bureaucracies worldwide.

Chapter 3: The “performance claim” of representative bureaucracy: does organization matter?

Eckhard Schröter and Patrick von Maravić

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


Representative bureaucracy both as a field of scholarly work and administrative reform has already a long history of occupying an important place in the theory and practice of public administration and seems to be even further on the rise as public sector organizations operate in increasingly multicultural societies (Kingsley, 1944; Mosher, 1968; Meier, 1975; Selden and Selden, 2001). It seems to be fair to suggest that much of the debate has been propelled forward by what we wish to label as the “performance claim” of representative bureaucracy. Regardless of their specific research focus, the general assumption of most studies in this area of interest appears to be that representative bureaucracy is a good to be provided and will eventually lead to more qualified decision-making in the public sector, more effectively implemented policies, better-served and more-satisfied clientele groups, not to speak of better motivated and more innovative staff. As a matter of fact, a rich body of empirical studies points at a positive association between workforce diversity and overall organizational performance (Riccucci, 2002; Bradbury and Kellough, 2008; Pitts, 2006, 2009). It flows from this already well-established strand of organizational research that many students of public administration have come take this performance claim for granted. This situation, however, may also give rise to the question whether a bias in case selection could be at work, so that most of the empirical and normative literature on this subject unduly focuses on a very specific segment of the universe of public sector organizations.

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