Ambition and Opportunity in Federal Systems: The Political Sociology of Political Career Patterns in Brazil, Germany, and the United States

21 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

The paper compares career patterns and their relationship to the given institutional structures in three federal systems: Brazil, Germany, and the U.S. For a long time federal systems have been seen as very simply organized hierarchies in which careers can be expected to follow a path from local through state-wide to national office.

This expectation was strongly influenced by the U.S. experience. If American researchers found deviating patterns like in Brazil where politicians frequently leave the national legislature for state or local office, they attributed that to the peculiar weaknesses and lack of institutionalization in that particular case. However, more recently there has been an increasing recognition that career patterns in federal and regionalized polities (multi-level systems) are a lot more diverse than previously assumed.

Based on career data, my paper argues that indeed there are three different ways in which the territorial levels of a federal (or regionalized) political system can be related to one another in political careers. A hierarchical pattern is just one way besides an alternative or an integrated one. Germany and Brazil come close to representing these latter two variants. The paper then discusses in what ways different institutional opportunity structures can explain different career patterns.

Keywords: careers, career patterns, Brazil, Germany, United States, ambition, opportunity

Suggested Citation

Borchert, Jens, Ambition and Opportunity in Federal Systems: The Political Sociology of Political Career Patterns in Brazil, Germany, and the United States (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1450640

Jens Borchert (Contact Author)

University of Frankfurt ( email )

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