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|
Assistant Professor, Political Science and International Studies, State University of New York, College at Brockport, Brockport, NY, USA
Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Missouri-Saint Louis, St. Louis, USA
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