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New Challenges, New Elites? Changes in the Recruitment and Career Patterns of European Representative Elites

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Long term changes in the recruitment patterns of European representative elites can be described as the aggregate result of selectorates' responses to a sequence of fundamental problems challenging polities since the emergence of modern representative political institutions in the 19th century. Recent data show that some long-term trends of (Western) European parliamentary recruitment like the increase of MPs with a public sector background have reversed or plateaued since the late 1980s. At the same time a rise in turnover, a decrease of incumbency and a growing diversity of recruitment patterns can be seen in the same group of polities. This paper explores whether and to what extent these changes are linked to changes in the party systems of Western European polities and whether new trends of parliamentary recruitment are emerging. It introduces the proposition that after the 'consensus challenge' of the post Second World War era a 'legitimacy challenge' is now shaping European legislative recruitment, increasing the value of social and cultural assets of candidates that are related to their expert-status and favouring properties signalling their moral integrity.

Affiliations: 1: Institut für Soziologie, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany


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