Consociationalists or Weberians? Top Commission Officials on Nationality

How do senior EU officials perceive of the role of EU bureaucracy? Distinguishing between the merit-based weberian approach and one based on national representation, this paper investigates this issue by way of primary sources.

ARENA Working Paper 20/1998 (html)

Lisbeth Hooghe

This paper examines how senior permanent officials in the European Commission (directors-general and directors) conceive of the role of nationality in their organization. Do they support a weberian ideal-typical bureaucratic organization, where merit shapes personnel selection and task organization, or do they prefer a consociational type, in which nationalities are represented in organization and policy making? I explain variation in weberian and consociational orientations, using 105 mail questionnaires collected between July 1995 and May 1997. In explaining variation, I contrast socialization factors and factors related to the professional utility function of officials. I find that utility packs far more power than socialization. Utility is most strongly influenced by nationality: support for consociational principles is highest among nationals with large personnel quotas in the Commission and nationals with strong supportive networks in Brussels. In an administration where nationality is a powerful principle of personnel organization, officials with the “right citizenship” have compelling incentives to reinforce its role. Professional utility is also a function of one's position in the work environment: officials in positions of weak regulatory autonomy or dealing with quality of life issues are more likely to be consociational. Socialization is weak, though prior experience as national civil servant reduces consociationalism and prior Commission cabinet experience increases it.

Tags: national interest, public administration, role conceptions, socialization
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM