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Diploma DemocracyThe Rise of Political Meritocracy$
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Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198790631

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198790631.001.0001

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Political Elites as Educational Elites

Political Elites as Educational Elites

(p.111) 7 Political Elites as Educational Elites
Diploma Democracy

Mark Bovens

Anchrit Wille

Oxford University Press

In twenty-first-century Western Europe, almost all incumbents in political office have very high formal credentials. Aristocracy, rule by the nobility, has given way to meritocracy, rule by the well-educated. This dominance of the well-educated in the legislative and executive branches is a relatively modern phenomenon. We document how citizens with primary and secondary education have disappeared from Western European parliaments in the past decades. Cabinets are even more tilted towards the well-educated. Then we show how the connection between social class and the opportunities for a political career has weakened. A university education has almost become a condition sine qua non for recruitment for political office. Thirdly, we describe how various supply and demand factors in the selection process have led to extraordinarily large numbers of highly educated citizens among the political elites.

Keywords:   political elites, education, member of parliament, cabinet, ministers, professionalization, political recruitment, pathways to politics

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