Representative Bureaucracy and the Role of Expertise in Politics

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Representative Bureaucracy and the Role of Expertise in Politics


  • Jarle Trondal Department of Political Science, University of Agder, Norway, and ARENA—Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Zuzana Murdoch Department of Political Science, University of Agder, Norway, and Organization and Governance Studies, University of Bremen, Germany
  • Benny Geys Department of Applied Economics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, and Norwegian Business School BI, Norway


Abstract  The vast majority of existing studies on bureaucratic representation focus on bureaucracies’ permanent and internal staff. Yet, the rising sophistication of modern democracies and the technocratization of political life are gradually inducing an increased reliance on external experts to assist in the development and implementation of policy decisions. This trend, we argue, raises the need to extend studies of bureaucratic representation to such external and non-permanent experts in governmental affairs. In this article, we take a first step in this direction using seconded national experts (SNEs) in the European Commission as our empirical laboratory. Our results highlight that Commission SNEs do not appear representative of their constituent population (i.e., the EU-27 population) along a number of socio-demographic dimensions. Moreover, we find that the role perception of “experts” is primarily explained by organizational affiliation, and only secondarily by demographic characteristics (except, of course, education).


Keywords  bureaucracy; European Commission; expertise; representation; seconded national experts


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v3i1.65


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