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New DAAD Project at the Cologne Center for Comparative Politics

On May 1, 2023, an international project on "Experts, Power and Democracy: The Rise of Technocracy in Europe" was launched at the Cologne Center for Comparative Politics.

The project is led by Dr.habil. Elena Semenova and Prof. André Kaiser (both University of Cologne) and Dr. Marcelo Camerlo and Prof. Antonio Costa Pinto (University of Lisbon, Portugal). The project is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service and the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia within the framework of the Programmes for Project-Related Personal Exchange (PPP).



The existing literature has shown the rise of technocrats (i.e., experts without any political or party experience) in many West European cabinets since the late 1980s. Although researchers agree that these developments are the reason of concern because it weakens the chain of delegation, which goes from the voters to political parties to the government (Strøm 1990), there have still been many theoretical gaps regarding the reasons for these appointments (compare, Cotta, 2018) e.g., whether they are the result of economic crisis (e.g., Alexiadou, 2018), prime minister’s choice (e.g., Cotta, 2018), or legacies of authoritarian regimes (Semenova 2020). The first research question that will be answered in this project is why political parties and prime ministers in parliamentary systems break the chain of political delegation by appointing ministers without political and party experience.

The second research question is about the societal consequences that these technocratic appointments have on policy outcomes and democratic development in European countries. Despite being a highly relevant issue, few empirical studies have dealt with assessing the effects of technocrats on the country’s policies, and if they did, then the analysis was restricted to just one type of policy (in particular, social spending and financial policy; Alexiadou et al., 2021). For the first time, the project will study the effects of technocratic appointments on policy outcomes by analysing the national budget spending in financial, economic, social, foreign affairs, defence, and environmental policy areas. Moreover, the research group will examine the effects of technocratic appointments on democratic development in Europe. The existing studies on technocracy have revealed that a small part of the West European general public and a large part of the population in Eastern Europe share technocratic attitudes, which are characterized by a positive opinion about technocrats in cabinets (Bertsou and Caramani, 2020). However, even these few studies have not attempted to connect the positive or negative attitude toward technocrats to the actual presence of these ministers in the government. This project aims to fill this gap by examining the causal effects of technocratic appointments on the overall perception of democracy and political trust in the general population of European countries.