Origins of Bureaucratic Organization: A Comparative Study of Political Careers and Elite Reproduction

Research question/goal: 

This project developed conceptual and analytic approaches to study the organizational side of parliamentary politics. When it comes to politicians, such as in the German Bundestag, we tend to think of elections first, in particular who will win an election. Yet, politicians continue their careers as legislators once they are elected to office, where they work under a unique arrangement of organizational opportunities and constraints. The subsequent careers are variable rather than scripted, taking turns and changing direction, from one legislative position to another. They challenge existing organizational perspectives, exposing gaps in the understanding of law-making’s organizational side.

The conceptual and empirical approach of the project focused on three aspects: (i) individual-level career strategies of representatives, (ii) organizational-level mobility mechanisms, and (iii) the legislative process as information processing. The analysis drew on existing records of parliamentary work and careers but required a variety of analytic techniques to generate social scientific insights. The Bundestag offers comprehensive records of all parliamentarians, including their educational background, occupation, and prior political activities. The project’s conceptual lens relied in particular on complete information on the Bundestag offices parliamentarians have held as well as their voting records, speeches, interruptions, and inquiries. The project proposed an innovative analytical approach that combines modern text and sequence analytic tools with micro-econometric methods for studying mobility in organizations, including multi-level modelling to examine how variation in careers and mobility mechanisms shapes the legislative process.

The project identified several possible strategies through which parliamentarians can use the political stage to advance their careers. For example, they belittle opposing opinions or ideologies, avoid engaging with them, or insist on formalities to disturb parliamentary procedures. These strategies enable parliamentarians to draw attention to their political projects, positioning themselves for more influential positions and offices.

Fact sheet

2017 to 2021
Data Sources: 
Longitudinal career data from administrative and archival sources
Geographic Space: 
Europe (France, Germany); North America (United States)