Inclusive Democracies? Conceptualising and Measuring the Descriptive and Substantive Political Representation of Under-represented Groups in Democratic Parliaments (INCLUSIVEPARL)

Project

Equal access to political representation is a core principle of democratic government. Yet national parliaments in established democracies do not reflect well the diversity of the populations they serve, as they fail to include sufficiently citizens who do not conform (in one or several ways) to the norm. Recent events throughout Europe have demonstrated aspirations for political renewal and greater inclusiveness in public institutions, among other political, economic and social centres of power.

The lack of inclusiveness of representative institutions matters, because it may affect the policy-making process and the substantive representation, through the quality of deliberation, the legitimacy of the parliamentary work, and the cohesion of national democracies, both in the eyes of the under-represented groups, and for the rest of society.

The INCLUSIVEPARL project is addressing the descriptive and substantive representation of under-represented groups in two complementary ways. First of all, it explores the theory of representation, mainly by examining the visibility concept. This theoretical work supports the identification of appropriate measures of membership into less visible groups. Building upon this conceptualisation and measurement contribution, the INCLUSIVEPARL project will at a second stage be able to identify links between changes in the descriptive representation of such groups and the patterns of the substantive representation of their interests and concerns.

The complex dynamics of the representation of seven under-represented groups are being considered. Some of them have already been well documented, such as gender and ethnic and migrant minorities’ representation, while some others are still poorly documented, like the representation of religious minorities, LGBT+ groups, citizens with disabilities and people from deprived social background. The interplay between categories and the intersection between minority belongings are special focal points of the INCLUSIVEPARL project.

This research is both longitudinal and comparative. It spans over three decades (1990s-2010s) and systematically compares the findings in four established democracies: France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The focus of the INCLUSIVEPARL project is, thus, to offer innovative epistemological and methodological tools for the analysis of descriptive representation, with a view to being able to scale up the empirical research in future cycles of this research agenda.

Schedule

INCLUSIVEPARL is a two and a half-year project funded by Sciences Po, starting at the beginning of 2019. It follows and expands a previous research agenda conducted by the PATHWAYS project.

Team