Gendering institutions: the political recruitment of women in post-devolution Scotland
Both feminist and mainstream political science has taken an institutional ‘turn’, opening up possibilities for dialogue between the two fields. Yet, despite sharing a number of common interests and preoccupations, there has been little interplay between mainstream new institutionalist scholars and feminist political scientists working on institutions. This thesis attempts to fill this gap and evaluates the potential for theoretical synthesis between feminist gender analysis and new institutional theory. It argues that there is potential for mutual benefit from a synthesis of these two approaches, and that a ‘feminist institutionalism’ offers a promising theoretical approach for the study of gender and institutions. The thesis evaluates the potential of a feminist institutionalist approach in the context of the comparative literature on gender and political recruitment. It critically evaluates the supply and demand model (Norris and Lovenduski, 1995), one of the only models that attempts to systematically integrate gender into the dynamics of the recruitment process. The thesis contends that a feminist institutionalist approach offers a way to take the supply and demand forward, developing the theoretical interconnections that are present implicitly in Pippa Norris and Joni Lovenduski’s work on political recruitment and reintegrating and reformulating the key features of the model into a feminist and institutionalist framework. The thesis develops this theory-building project through an illustrative case study – the institutions of political recruitment in post-devolution Scotland. Using a multi-method approach – including discourse analysis, process tracing, and political interviewing – the thesis combines a macro-level analysis of gendered patterns of selection and recruitment in Scottish political parties over time with a micro-level case study of a Scottish Labour Party constituency seat selection contest in the run-up to the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. The case study finds some evidence of institutional innovation and reform in the candidate selection process, but also highlights underlying continuities in the institutions of political recruitment. The case study illustrates the specific and gendered difficulties of institutionalizing a ‘new’ more gender-balanced politics within a pre-existing institutional context. Findings from the case study suggest that the ‘success’ of institutional innovation in candidate selection is a complex and contingent question, and that elements of the ‘old’ continue to co-exist with elements of the ‘new’, constraining and shaping each other. The Scottish case, then, underscores the need to rethink conventional models of political recruitment, illustrating the difficulties of reforming and redesigning the institutions of political recruitment in the face of powerful institutional and gendered legacies. As such, the thesis generates new theoretical and empirical insights into the gendered dynamics of institutional power, continuity and change that contribute to the growing body of research on gender and institutions and inform the wider literature on both new institutional theory and feminist political science.