Testing the Politics of Presence: Women’s Representation in the Swedish Riksdag

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Abstract

This article focuses on women’s representation in the Swedish Riksdag. The theory of the politics of presence serves as a point of departure. The aim is to underpin empirically – or to test empirically – the assertion that female politicians, to a greater extent than male politicians, represent the interests of women. The concept of women’s interests divides, on a theoretical level, into three components: the recognition of women as a social category; acknowledgement of the unequal balance of power between the sexes; and the occurrence of policies to increase the autonomy of female citizens. On the empirical level this corresponds to measurements indicating female versus male MPs’ attitudes and behaviour in areas such as gender equality and social welfare policy. The data used are parliamentary survey studies from 1985, 1988, and 1994. The analysis controls for effects of politicians’ gender when other factors – e.g. party affiliation, age, education, and parliamentary experience – are taken into account. The main result is that the theory of the politics of presence gains strong empirical support. What this study contributes is a significant measure of stability for the feminist critique of more established theories of representative democracy.

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