There are many benefits of including minorities of power in decision-making — so-called descriptive representation. This is the case for women who remain numerically under-represented in legislatures around the world, but also ethnic minority groups, and other minorities.
There are, however, practical limitations to including different groups and subgroups in legislatures. Goodin (2004) highlights that there is a tension between including members from different groups and subgroups on the one hand, and the practical ability to debate in the legislature – thus rob them of the possibility of substantively represent their particular subgroup. Goodin highlights that legislatures and governments need not include all groups and subgroups in society to represent the fact of diversity. While this observation highlights why it is impossible to include every subgroup all the time, it should not distract from the need of including ethnic and regional minorities in processes of decision-making, and certainly not be seen as a licence to exclude large groups of society.
It might be helpful to take a longer-term perspective here: rather than focusing on the absence of particular (small) groups in society in any given legislature, focus on persistent exclusion over several legislatures. And bear in mind that representatives act on behalf of groups not directly included in decision-making — so we should also focus on the representation of interests (though this is much harder to do than simply counting, of course).
Goodin, R. 2004. «Representing Diversity». British Journal of Political Science
34 (3): 453–68. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123404000134
Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.
Image: CC-by-nc by Guilherme Sales
Call for papers for our workshop at the Swiss Sociological Association Conference in Zürich, 21–23 June 2017.
Please submit your 200 word abstracts by 19 February 2017 online. Working language of the workshop is English.
Societal and demographic changes have made apparent that our world is increasingly defined by migration calling into questions categories such as majority and minority and their relationships. One of the key challenge posed by migration is the tension between self-interest and the common good. Migrants are seen as threats to the social state, social cohesion, and public good, but also as a necessary labour force for the economy. This tension is paramount in the case of migrants who may not contribute directly to the economy. How can self-interest and social interests be reconciled in this case, and what are the implications for social cohesion?
With a focus on the challenges posed by migration on self-interest and the common good, we seek to address the following questions: What shape does diversity take and how is the diversification of society experienced in the everyday? What new conflicts arise because of diversity, and what kind of solutions can be developed? How can we define the nationhood, identity, belonging, and participation in nation-states in a context of increasing diversity? How can we form a political community, which reflects different views and belongings? What societal, political, economic and urban changes should be implemented to respond to the challenges raised by migration?
The research network migration—minorities seeks to organize panels that showcase current research on the topic. We welcome both theoretically and empirically informed papers on (but not limited to):
- tensions between justice, human rights and citizenship rights
- reactions and attitudes to refugees and foreigners (including categorization)
- forms of integration, embeddedness and belonging
- challenges and impact of migration on the economy and social policy
- challenges and impact of migration on social cohesion and urban organization
- the role of self-interest and social norms in minority relations
SSA Research Network Migration–Minorities
When it comes to inter-ethnic relations, contact between groups has long been recognized as a factor potentially reducing tensions. In this sense, ethnically diverse voluntary associations have been lauded as a means to foster positive attitudes towards other groups. In a recent paper Tom van der Meer has a close look at the role of ethnically diverse associations, and concludes that in this particular case, we’re looking at self-selection effects.
The paper concludes that voluntary associations do not live up to their socializing potential to reduce tensions between different ethnic groups. Self-selection in this case means that people who are more open towards other groups in society are more likely to be in ethnically mixed association.
While the paper is a step forward in many aspects, it really would have needed panel data to support the strong conclusions it makes. In the meantime, we’re left with a caution and encouraged to dig deeper.
van der Meer, Tom. 2016. ‘Neither Bridging nor Bonding: A Test of Socialization Effects by Ethnically Diverse Voluntary Associations on Participants’ Inter-Ethnic Tolerance, Inter-Ethnic Trust and Intra-Ethnic Belonging’. Social Science Research 55 (January): 63–74. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.09.005.