In this article we develop a contingency approach to representative bureaucracy. We argue that representative bureaucracy is a multidimensional and changing concept, and that in the academic and policy debate on representative bureaucracy three different dimensions are intermingled: power, equal opportunities and diversity. These dimensions not only reflect a particular view on the role of the state and the relation between the state and citizens, they also diverge in the motives for making the bureaucracy representative. Even the conception of what representation means can be totally different. We conclude that modern diversity management approaches alone may not contribute to nation-building because these mainly emphasize organizational performance. Approaches to representative bureaucracy in nation-building must also be built on moral arguments and underline the exemplary role of the state. In addition, the political viability of managerial and moral approaches needs to be taken into account through acknowledging political realities and existing distributions of power in society. Points for practitioners Through using a contingency approach we show how representative bureaucracy has been used as a political and administrative answer to quite different social, political and administrative problems and challenges. Through analysing these contingencies, this article contributes to nation-builders' quest for a fitting concept of representative bureaucracy in the contexts in which they are working. The instruments used to make the bureaucracy representative need to be aligned with dominant conceptions of the state, politics, and citizens.

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International Review of Administrative Sciences: an international journal of comparative public administration
Department of Sociology

Groeneveld, S., & Van de Walle, S. (2010). A contingency approach to representative bureaucracy: Power, equal opportunities and diversity. International Review of Administrative Sciences: an international journal of comparative public administration, 76(2), 239–258. doi:10.1177/0020852309365670