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Engendering the ‘Crisis of Democracy’: Institutions, Representation and Participation


Many democracies are widely perceived to be suffering a serious crisis of representation, participation and legitimacy. As part of this ‘crisis’, the male domination of democracy – both in terms of its institutions and who participates – has been identified as problematic, even emblematic, of a more generalized democratic crisis. Increasing the participation of women is advocated as one solution. Using examples drawn from both long-standing and newer democracies (parliamentary and presidential), particularly from Europe and Latin America, this article explores the gender dynamics of the ‘crisis of democracy’. The ‘crisis’ has two gendered aspects. First, and paradoxically, although democracy still privileges predominantly white, elite, heterosexual, men, more women now participate in democratic institutions, leading to claims that the ‘male monopoly’ has ended (Dahlerup and Leyenaar 2013). Second, the ‘crisis of democracy’ may provide opportunities to further enhance women’s participation, as the demands of those favouring greater gender equality and those looking for solutions to the ‘crisis’ appear to coincide.

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Georgina Waylen is Professor of Politics at the University of Manchester. Contact email:

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