Executive Representation Worldwide: Indistinguishable Elites, Multifarious Masses

By Steven J. Jurek and Farida Jalalzai.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Liberal democratic theory centers on the rule of law, the protection of civil liberties and basic human rights, freedoms such as speech, religion, petition and assembly, and a high degree of public participation in the decision-making process. Most definitions of democracy also include an element of accountability as well: public officials are held answerable to their electorate at regular intervals via elections. As long as constituents have a choice between candidates then most consider the polity to be a democratic one.
However, there is an important component that democratic theory often ignores; that is, the degree to which elites who constitute the governing bodies are a reflection of the people they represent. While descriptive representation is not the only type of representativeness, it has an impact on the substantive, formalist, and symbolic representativeness of elites. This is where examining diversity or lack thereof can shed light on some of the deficiencies of representativeness in democratic states. This paper examines the discrepancy between descriptive characteristics of elites and masses and its ramifications for democratic theory.

Keywords: Diversity, Politics, Elites, Masses, Representation, Democracy

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp.71-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 765.427KB).

Steven J. Jurek

Assistant Professor, Political Science and International Studies, State University of New York, College at Brockport, Brockport, NY, USA

Steven J. Jurek Ph.D. research in comparative politics spotlights democratic theory in relation to representativeness and competitiveness within electoral systems. He has also published with James E. Campbell on the decline of competition and change in American House elections (Ohio State University Press, 2005).

Farida Jalalzai

Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Missouri-Saint Louis, St. Louis, USA

Farida Jalalzai Ph.D. research analyzes the representation and behavior of women and minorities in politics and the role of gender in the political arena. Her work focuses on women national leaders (Women and Politics 2004; Politics & Gender 2008; International Political Science Review 2010, Journal of Women, Politics, & Policy 2010; German Politics), gender and campaign coverage (Politics & Policy 2006), and widows in Congress (Journal of Women, Politics, & Policy 2008). She has also published research dealing with Muslim American political behavior (Politics & Religion 2009) and the impact of discrimination on Muslim Americans since 9/11 (Politics & Religion 2011).

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