Seminar with Dr. Felix Haaß (GIGA Institute of International Affairs)
The title of the presentation: " How to Make a Career in an Autocratic State--Evidence from the German Democratic Republic (GDR)".
What does it take to advance in an autocratic state? Ruling elites face a well-known trade-off when selecting agents into relevant positions: loyal but incompetent agents reduce imminent political threats but undermine policy output and long-term regime resilience; competent but unreliable agents ensure effective policy implementation but may conspire against their principal. We still know little about how autocratic regimes handle this dilemma. Existing empirical research on this topic has a rather narrow focus: Most importantly, it concentrates almost exclusively on the selection of high-level politicians, neglecting the recruitment of the bulk of low and medium-level ``street-level'' functionaries. Moreover, it focuses heavily on the very relevant but also quite specific case of China. Our paper aims at contributing to this research by investigating heterogeneous career patterns of 700,000 cadres in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). We use detailed biographical and employment histories to analyze career trajectories in the period from 1950 to 1989. Our preliminary findings indicate that loyalty, competence, and political influence boost career prospects but these effects vary substantively across vertical levels of the authoritarian hierarchy