FWF research projects

National and Local Elites in Austrian Politics, FWF-Project No. 31967, 2019-2023 (Principial Investigator)

This project is concerned with the pathways to power in Austrian politics. Its aim is threefold:  First, creating a biographical database on about 3,000 leading politicians on the national and regional level in Austrian since 1945. Second, applying two visualization techniques (sequence analysis, correspondence analysis) to large data to figure out dominating patterns in career pathways as well as in the personal interlocks of power holders that allow for typologies. Third, combining these ‘objective’ perspectives on powerholders with the ‘subjective’ perspectives of politicians on their careers.

The research is expected to advance knowledge on who succeeds as politician but also, or even primarily, to shed light on the changing institutional logic in Austria that is known for its co-operative system of interest intermediation (‘Austrian Corporatism’), the far-reaching informal power of state governors, and the crumbling power of the parties ÖVP and SPÖ that used to form an elite cartel. Questions addressed are: Do interlocks between Austrian government and corporatist institutions (e.g. chambers, trade unions) persist over time? Are regional and political arenas sealed off against each other or rather integrated? How has the membership decline changed leadership in Austrian parties?

The project studies all members of the national parliament (Nationalrat, Bundesrat) and all members in eight (out of nine) state governments since 1945 (Landeshauptmann, -stv., Landesräte). Biographical data sources used are official short CVs mostly collected by the Austrian Parliament (Parlamentsdirektion) or by the various state archives (Landesarchive). Careers are approached holistically as social sequences thereby accounting of all career stages, their order, and their durations. Personal characteristics captured as categorical variables are jointly analysed via multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) that allows to identify elite fractions within parties with different social characteristics.

Academic Super-Elites in Sociology and Economics, FWF-Project No. 29211, 2016-2019 (Co-Principal Investigator)

This research project sets out to get better knowledge on the super-elite in sociology and economics; those rare social scientists in the highest stratum of the loosely formalized intra-disciplinary hierarchies. The most outstanding features of this group are the considerable influence they exercise on the development of their disciplines and their international visibility. This research project aims to answer the following questions:

Do the academic profiles of super-elites in sociology and economics differ? If so, how can we explain these differences? Does the process of accumulated advantage enter equally into stratification in both disciplines? Which selection processes decide whether or not texts receive international circulation?

This project will take a wider perspective than existing, scattered literature on selected ‘masterminds’, differentiating itself by establishing both communalities and differences between these two elites in the social sciences.

We define the super-elite in economics as all 117 economists who have won at least one of the three highest academic awards within the discipline (the Nobel Prize in Economics, John Bates Clark Medal and the Yrjö Jahnsson Award). No comparable awards exist for sociology, so to identify the sociologists who might be seen as the counterparts to the elite economists, we will use a mixture of methods that rely either on peer judgment or citation analysis.

The research project comprises four parts which will be undertaken sequentially: 1) identifying/describing super-elites; 2) reconstructing reception histories; 3) investigating the gatekeeping power; and 4) the wider-influence of academic super-elites.