Dec 12, 2019 in Exploratory

Representative Bureaucracy

The term representative bureaucracy was presented by Kingsley in 1944 and raised a question whether public bureaucracies could be representative political institutions. The representative bureaucracy was a controversial notion, associated with a comparatively new discussion about the desirability of academic arguments and asserting actions. It has been found that public bureaucrats could signify more than their interest due to the process of socialization. Nevertheless, the idea is still a mixed issue to some confusion in terms of its normative implications. Representative bureaucracy declares that the government bureaucracy can design and implement public policy more effectively if it promotes hiring public personnel that represent different individuals and communities.

The Meaning of Representative Bureaucracy

Interest representation and demographic representation are the main approaches to bureaucratic representation. Interest representation argues that government administrative bodies are likely to serve a variety of specific interests in a wide-ranging community. For instance, the Department of Defense employees lack such professional and personal relations. Demographic representation states that people with equal backgrounds may better comprehend how the creation of values and attitudes cause particular conditions and behaviors than those with different backgrounds. To illustrate, female administrators could more contribute to the policy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission than their male colleagues. Two approaches agree that a public administration representing wide-ranging community segments better performs and interprets to introduce these segments in the context of the public sector. Although there can be tensions between the two approaches, they are compatible.


Representative bureaucracy plays a vital role for the next two reasons. First, it displays the government’s commitment to supporting as it reflects different social groups’ needs. The concept is that all community members have equal access to government agencies. Thus, the government increases the legitimacy of bureaucratic offices, government officials, and public policy when they bear a resemblance to target populations more closely. Second, representative bureaucracy suggests the improvement of the policy process because people with unique ideas and proficiency develop the evaluation, implementation, creation, and analysis of policy. Consequently, as government bodies are the most operative when they match their social environment, representative bureaucracy aims at enhancing government legitimacy and service quality in the public sector. 

Representative Bureaucracy: An Interpretation of the British Civil Service is the first book that observes bureaucratic representation notion thoroughly. Its author David Kingsley describes the exceptional institutional and historical British bureaucracy features and shows that the current Civil Service should be totally reformed. “For bureaucracies to be democratic, must be representative of the groups they serve.” Analyzing the impact of inequitable British education class structure on the civil service, the scholar doubts if the existing selection method works and argues that the training is rather specialized that is unrelated to public administration.  Kingsley’s work is based on the idea that bureaucratic representation is measured regarding social class. The author assumes that being representative, the US civil service followed this principle.

Later, concentrating on the US civil service, Meier determines bureaucratic representation using various factors, including occupation, birth region, the size of birthplace, social class, income, education, and age. Further interest in the gender, ethnic, and racial representativeness of the US bureaucracy arose partly due to under-represented females and minorities in the civil service that was frequently formed along the gender, ethnic, and racial line.

The basic principle of the representative bureaucracy model is that the degree to which bureaucracy hires individuals of various demographic backgrounds, namely passive representation, results in the policy pursuit to reflect their wishes and interests, that is active representation. 

The Benefits of Representative Bureaucracy

A bureaucracy that demonstrates the diversity of the overall population provides equal access to power. The representative role comes from the individual features of members of different groups and the hypothesis that for this reason, the bureaucracy has mutual experience with these members. When diverse group members grow into public officials, they turn into the genuine participants of the political process and become able to form public policy. New groups that were not represented before can deliver useful information and valuable experience and reflect group partialities more accurately.

Next, a representative bureaucracy will affect the way matters are ordered on the agenda. As the proportion of minorities and females in executive jobs becomes higher than before, their interests are more likely to become the main concern on the agenda. A bureaucracy reflecting the demographic community structure involves a wider preference and opinion range in the decision-making process and its program. Therefore, it is more responsive to these groups. Earlier voiceless groups will be more closely associated with the body. Accordingly, they will be more prone to co-production and cooperation. For instance, prospective customers tend to take part in government programs if they feel comfortable and even identify themselves with those who govern these programs. 

Finally, a representative bureaucracy makes the usage of human resources more effectual. Earlier omitted groups, like minority women, are now presented in the labor pool. 

Representative Bureaucracy at the State and Federal Level

The necessity for representative bodies has been acknowledged at the state and local levels. “The notion that the bureaucracy is in fact representative is advanced in two separate [intertwined] ways: (1) it is seen as such in composition and in the manner of its selection; (2) it is judged in terms of substantive product, and the quality of its decisions is evaluated in the light of the accord with what is assumed to be public opinion.”  American bureaucracy is among the most operative and advanced administrative agencies worldwide. The passive representation policy is accepted in public administration, including the highest levels of government. It can be said that the contemporary representative system reveals a balance between legislative and bureaucratic authorities.

The race has always been a central social representativeness matter in America. At the federal level, white representation was decreased to about 60 percent by 2010, mostly owing to Hispanics. Even though Hispanics remain the most poorly represented minority, their existence has doubled over in the highest federal positions. As the federal level is divided into several ones in the administrative system, representativeness is not so obvious. Particularly, the federal government could not provide a truly representative service at the upper bureaucracy levels. This model of employment was prolonged to a number of additional federal government positions over time. Therefore, at least the lower federal government levels have a higher percentage of employed minorities than the economy in general. 

At the state and federal levels, the ranking women position has significantly improved during the past years, yet it is still short. Just several females occupying high-profile governmental positions, like the Secretary of State, does not lessen worries about employment at all echelons. On the other hand, females are more represented at the higher federal government levels than Hispanics or Afro-Americans. According to the latest data, women make up more than 11 percent in the federal civil service. Moreover, the change of representative bureaucracy might not be seen in the structure of employment, yet it is noticeable in education.

While the US civil service represents different genders and races as a whole, the higher bureaucracy levels, like state and federal, are not so representative as they should be. Many labor market and social programs are provided at the local level where the bureaucracy and citizens have face-to-face contacts. This level is the most representative, and here representativeness is the most important. 


Representative bureaucracy should remain a vital area of research as it influences social justice. It serves as a guide to diverse viewpoints, comprising different talents and skills and coping with a wide range of issues that appear in the current industrial society. Representative bureaucracy gives positive results in terms of providing services. Furthermore, representative institutions guarantee the sharing of social responsibility, causing a better adoption of public policy. The significance of representative bureaucracy is not only in reflecting the society; the bureaucracy mirrors its values. Hence, representative bureaucracy responds to democratic values. Representativeness was initially considered in terms of social class, but its concept is much broader. It is shown that race and gender are the central aspects of bureaucratic representation in the US, and there is a distance to go while evaluating its effectiveness at the state and federal levels.


Related essays