The Critical Mass Theory And Quota Systems Debate
Volume 1 - Issue 1, July 2017 Edition
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Jeffrey Kurebwa1, Sikhulekile Ndlovu2
critical mass, critical structures, critical junctures, proportional representation
It has been argued theoretically by many scholars that a critical mass ranging from 30 to 35 percent of women is needed before major changes in legislative institutions, behaviour, policy priorities, and policy voting occurs. During the last decade, the idea of a critical mass has reached fever peach as an explanation for women’s legislative representation and behaviour. The assumption is that once a critical mass of elected women is reached, it will lead to changes in political behaviour, institutions, and public policy that will radically transform legislatures. This idea has gained increasing currency as women have improved their proportion of representation in legislative bodies all over the world. Although the idea of a critical mass is now widely accepted, it has not been subjected to the same theoretical or empirical investigation as many other concepts which are commonly employed in political representation and participation debates. There are two major problems with the concept. The first is that the percentage membership in an institution which women must obtain in order to function as a critical mass is often vague. Is there a single percentage which has universal acceptance, or are there different percentages for different countries? The second problem is that, irrespective of the accepted percentage, there is very little empirical evidence to support such effects.
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