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

Research question/goal: 

This project developed conceptual and analytic approaches for studying 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, the careers of politicians continue as legislators once they are elected into 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 project has developed a threefold conceptual lens and empirical approach: (i) individual-level career strategies of representatives, (ii) organizational-level mobility mechanisms and (iii) the legislative process as information processing. This conceptual lens capitalizes on existing records of parliamentary work and careers but requires a comprehensive array of analytic techniques to generate social scientific insights from them. 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 they 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 modeling to examine how variation in careers and mobility mechanisms shapes the legislative process.

The project mapped out several possible strategies whereby parliamentarians can use the political stage to advance their careers. For example, they belittle opposing opinions or ideologies, avoided engaging with them, or insisting on formalities to disturb parliamentary procedures. Through these strategies, parliamentarians can 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)