First and Second Chambers in Changing Times

Panel Code
Open Panel
In Person

When it comes to listing representative organizations adapted to the XXIst century, second chambers of bicameral parliaments do not spontaneously come to mind. On the contrary, their reputation of tending to be conservative circles of older men, often indirectly elected (or not elected at all), seem increasingly at odds with pleas for better descriptive representation and higher citizen involvement in politics. Yet, second chambers can still be found in about 40 percent of parliaments in the world. In some systems, like Ireland, abolishment of the Senate is debated, elsewhere reforms are discussed, like in Italy, while other countries, like Nepal, recently reinstated a second chamber.

The panel aims at uncovering what second chambers teach us about what representation can look like. Indeed, the way political science thinks of representation tends to be shaped by what we expect of first chambers of parliament, only rarely do we consider that second chambers as well have claims of being representative, as they stand for specific territorial entities, ethnic minorities, segments of society, or for the nation as a whole. Contributions to the panel scrutinize what kind of representation second chambers actually provide in our modern days, and how. It also aims to encourage discussions about ways we can study this matter, theoretically and empirically, and how to extend our understanding of this feature of bicameralism. How do second chambers “do” representation? Are these chambers tools to preserve the status quo? What are the consequences of their electoral or appointment processes for their membership? Is party politics as important as in the first chambers, or do other logics prevail? Do committee appointments follow the same patterns as in first chambers? What does law-making look like for them? Did the crises of recent years – military, health, democratic, environmental – affect their functioning? Do they try to adapt to changing public expectations, and if so, how?

The panel welcomes both single-case and comparative studies of representation in second chambers, from quantitative or qualitative perspectives. The organizers specifically encourage early-career researchers as well as researchers from marginalized groups to submit their proposals.