Diploma Democracy: The Rise of Political Meritocracy

ISBN : 9780198790631

Mark Bovens; Anchrit Wille
256 ページ
153 x 234 mm

Lay politics lies at the heart of democracy. Political offices are the only offices for which no formal qualifications are required. Contemporary political practices are diametrically opposed to this constitutional ideal. Most democracies in Western Europe are diploma democracies - ruled by those with the highest formal qualifications. Citizens with low or medium educational qualifications currently make up about 70 percent of the electorates, yet they have become virtually absent from almost all political arenas. University graduates have come to dominate all political institutions and venues, from political parties, parliaments and cabinets, to organised interests, deliberative settings, and Internet consultations. This rise of a political meritocracy is part of larger trend. In the information society, educational background, like class or religion, is an important source of social and political divides. Those who are well educated tend to be cosmopolitans, whereas the lesser educated citizens are more likely to be nationalists. This book documents the context, contours, and consequences of this rise of a political meritocracy. It explores the domination of higher educated citizens in political participation, civil society, and political office in Western Europe. It discusses the consequences of this rise of a political meritocracy, such as descriptive deficits, policy incongruences, biased standards, and cynicism and distrust. Also, it looks at ways to remedy, or at least mitigate, some of the negative effects of diploma democracy.


1 Diploma Democracy

Part I: Concepts and Contexts
2 Diplomas
3 Democracy
4 Education as a Cleavage

Part II: Contours
5 The Education Gap in Political Participation
6 The Meritocratization of Civil Society
7 Political Elites as Educational Elites

Part III: Consequences
8 The Consequences of Diploma Democracy
9 Remedying Diploma Democracy


Mark Bovens is a Professor at the Utrecht University School of Governance. He is a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences and chairs its Social Science Council. He has published more than twenty monographs and edited volumes in the area of politics, government, and public policy. His publications include The Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability (co-edited with Robert E. Goodin and Thomas Schillemans, OUP, 2014), The Real World of EU Accountability (co-edited with Deirdre Curtin and Paul 't Hart, OUP, 2010), and Success and Failure in Public Governance (Edward Elgar, 2001).; Anchrit Wille is Associate Professor at Leiden University's Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. Her research focuses on executive politics, accountability, democratic governance, public policy, and citizen participation. She has (co)-authored many articles and books about political participation, political-administrative relationships, EU governance, and the European Commission. Her publications include The Normalization of the European Commission (OUP, 2013).