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New article: Representative bureaucracy and specialist knowledge

A new article has been accepted for publication in Public Administration. The article, co-authored with Leiden University colleagues Johan Christensen and Petra van den Bekerom, discusses the relationship between representation and specialist knowledge in public organizations. 

Specialist knowledge is traditionally a central pillar of public bureaucracies in general, and their processes of merit-based recruitment in particular. Representative bureaucracy theory states that public organizations should also strive to be representative for the population that they serve. While representation may strengthen the legitimacy of public bureaucracies, what implications does it have for expert knowledge in these organizations? The article posits that an emphasis on representation in recruitment may negatively impact the degree to which specialist knowledge and expertise is emphasized.

This issue is examined by looking at the recruitment of civil servants to the European Commission, an international bureaucracy where the question of geographical representation is of fundamental importance. Based on a quantitative analysis of nearly 200 recruitment competitions for the organization from 1958 to 2015, the article finds that competitions related to EU enlargement where nationality was an explicit criterion put significantly less emphasis on specialist qualifications and knowledge than other competitions. Implications for broader debates about representative bureaucracy and international public administrations are discussed.

The article is available through this link: (paywall)