Seminar with Felix Haass
Title: Decentralized networks and bureaucratic careers in autocracies (Alexander De Juan, Felix Haass, Jan Pierskalla)
How do personal networks shape bureaucratic careers in autocracies? Previous research has demonstrated that ruling elites hand-pick top-level cadres from their personal networks to maximize loyalty. However, similar personal networks also exist among the hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats on lower levels of the administrative hierarchy. Yet we do not know whether mid-level cadres advance the promotion of members of their own networks, generating important career dynamics that could escape the direct control of the autocratic elite. We undertake the first empirical analysis of such networks, focusing on a least-likely case: the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). The regime’s highly formalized socialist cadre policy should have left little room for a strong role of informal ties in bureaucratic careers. We draw on detailed biographical data on over 370,000 cadres to investigate if decentralized networks nonetheless shaped promotion practices in the GDR’s bureaucracy. We reconstruct the composition of local work collectives---a center of personal commitment, friendship, and mutual help in the GDR. We demonstrate a substantive role of decentralized career networks in cadres’ career trajectories, highlighting a so-far underappreciated element of personalized networks in autocracies.
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