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Voting for bureaucracy? Contestation, suffrage and meritocracy

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The relationship between democracy and bureaucracy is the object of both classic and contemporary studies in political science. In classic works, scholars argue that there is an inherent conflict between democracy and bureaucracy, whereas contemporary scholars often assert that democracy is positively related to the development of bureaucracy. We argue that both classic and recent interpretations of the relationship are too simplistic since the two dimensions of democracy, contestation and inclusiveness, are likely to affect bureaucratic development in different ways. On the one hand, electoral contestation strengthens bureaucracy if voters demand public goods that politicians cater to by employing meritocratic recruitment. On the other hand, we cannot take for granted that all voters demand public goods. As poorer people are enfranchised, popular demands for particularistic goods increase, which incentivizes politicians to keep a patrimonial state administration, thus facilitating clientelistic linkages with the electorate. Based on new and improved data on electoral contestation and meritocratic recruitment and a measure of male suffrage, we examine the separate and combined effects of contestation and suffrage on meritocracy worldwide from 1790 to 2012. We find that contestation is positively related to meritocracy after the advent of World War II when universal suffrage and contested elections were generally introduced simultaneously. Before World War II, when suffrage was limited and only gradually extended to poorer segments, contestation is significantly related to meritocracy only at lower levels of suffrage.

TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Political Research
Sider (fra-til)1122-1145
Antal sider24
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2023

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