Hereditary Democracy

Issue Date July 2024
Volume 35
Issue 3
Page Numbers 149–162
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Hereditary democracy is the phenomenon whereby the children, spouses, or other close family members of powerful politicians are themselves elected to high office. It is a ubiquitous feature of democracy worldwide. What causes it? What are its consequences? To explain hereditary democracy, the article develops a framework that looks at both supply- and demand-side factors, with respect to both the voting masses and party elites, that contribute to an inherited incumbency advantage. The article argues that the practice of hereditary democracy should be condemned. While it has helped women leaders to reach high office in unlikely places, it artificially shrinks the pool of political talent, can lead to disappointed voter expectations, and is fundamentally unfair. 

About the Author

James Loxton is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. His most recent book is Authoritarianism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

View all work by James Loxton

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