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Professionalisation Without End? Reasons and Consequences of Populisms’ Onslaught on Representative Democracy

Elites
Parliaments
Populism
Lars Vogel
Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg
Heinrich Best
Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena
Lars Vogel
Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg

Abstract

Populism can be considered as political actors and movements who challenge established norms, practices and organizational settings of Western democracies. They thereby express a widespread discontent of citizens with the isolation and the outcomes of the politics of representative institutions. We see this development as being part and the final culmination of a response to what we have described at the beginning of the century as the “legitimacy challenge”. This conclusion is based on the idea that the patterns of long term change of European representative elites and their recruitment patterns can be interpreted as responses to fundamental societal and political challenges. For a long time in the second half of the 20th century elites’ behavior and recruitment was based on arrangements between politicians to appropriate and share the resources of the state thereby creating a consensual political elite united by common interests. This closure of the political market through political professionalization and the pooling of interests between formally competing parties has undermined the legitimacy of representative democracy, as the ingroup / outgroup differential became too large to be justifiable by the achievements of the incumbents. Populism is the political response to this salient gap between citizens’ and political elites. Our paper investigates, whether there is change in elites’ recruitment patterns observable that can be described as de-professionalisation and response to the surge of populism. We make use of a longitudinal dataset that covers aggregated biographical and political information about national parliamentarians in Europe since the mid of the 19th century. This dataset is established by the integration of the Eurelite-Datacube and its predecessor: the Datacube of the EASE-project (Elites And their SociEties).