Panel Paper: Who Represents the Global Public?: An Examination of Representative Bureaucracy at the International Level

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 9:30 AM
Grand Pavilion II-III (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Edward Malone, American University
Research pertaining to representative bureaucracy explores the idea that public bureaucracies can serve as institutions of political representation in addition to serving as mechanisms for policy implementation.  Typically, scholars divide bureaucratic representation into passive and active representation.  A passively representative bureaucracy demographically mirrors the population it serves, whereas active representation involves a bureaucrat pursuing the interests of the segment of society that he or she is presumed to represent.  Much of the representative bureaucracy research in recent years has sought to determine whether and when a link exists between passive and active representation.  Although scholars differ as to the appropriateness and desirability of bureaucratic representation, the question of whether such representation occurs nonetheless has important implications for the policy process.

One of the key limitations of this work is its predominant focus on Western, high-income, domestic bureaucracies.  As public issues and the attempts to govern them become more transnational and global in nature, such a focus appears increasingly outdated as it neglects, for instance, the bureaucracies of emerging economic powers as well as the bureaucracies within international organizations.  Thus, the proposed paper will help to fill this gap in the literature by examining the nature of representative bureaucracy at the international level.  Specifically, it will investigate the potential connection between passive and active representation of nationality in the context of influential international bureaucracies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Using a qualitative approach, the author will conduct recorded interviews with international civil servants and attempt to identify the extent to which these individuals pursue the interests of their home nations.  After transcribing the interviews, the text will be coded using the NVivo software program, and the author will analyze the findings with the following research question in mind:  to what extent is passive representation of nationality associated with active representation of nationality within international bureaucracies?  This inquiry will not only assist in globalizing the theory of representative bureaucracy, but it will have important practical implications for international bureaucracies and for those who have a stake in the work of these increasingly important organizations.