The Costs and Benefits of Descriptive Representation: Women’s Quotas, Variations in State Feminism and the Fact of Reasonable Pluralism

  • Cathrine Holst
Part of the Citizenship, Gender and Diversity book series (FEMCIT)


The chapter discusses the costs and benefits of descriptive representation under state feminism in the light of institutional variation and the fact of reasonable normative disagreement. Women-centred and intersectional state feminism, state feminism inside and outside a welfare state context, and state feminism more and less democratized are compared, and it is argued that from the cost side, descriptive representation is more recommendable in a democratized, intersectional state feminist regime than in a women-centred technocratic one, whereas the effects of the welfare state variable on descriptive representation costs are more mixed. On the benefit side, intersectionality, welfare state and democratization seem to deliver several of the same goods as descriptive representation, raising the question of whether descriptive representation is at all recommendable, given what we know of its costliness. In the end, there is however a set of remaining pro arguments suggesting that descriptive representation produces some exclusive benefits. The closer assessment of pros and cons will however vary with normative position and more specifically with which conceptions of democracy and equality one subscribes to.


Welfare State Sexual Minority Descriptive Representation Deliberative Democracy Welfare Regime 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathrine Holst
    • 1
  1. 1.Arena Centre for European StudiesUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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