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Political Science and Political Economy Research Seminar

The Origins of Elite Persistence: Evidence from Political Purges in post-World War II France

Jean Lacroix (Université Paris-Saclay)

Tuesday 11 May 2021 14:00 - 15:30

Due to the onging coronavirus outbreak, many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as online seminars. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.


About this event

This paper studies the mechanisms that allow political elites from a non-democratic regime to survive a democratic transition and argues that connections is one of them. We document this phenomenon using the transition from the Vichy regime back to democracy in post-World War II France. The politicians who had supported the Vichy regime were purged in a two-stage process whereby local courts, Comités départementaux de libération (CDLs) and a national court, the Jury d'Honneur, sequentially decided on the case of each defendant. First, we show that the Jury was more likely than the CDLs to clear parliamentarians who were Law graduates, a historically powerful group in French politics. The difference in clearance rates between Law graduates and other defendants was 10 percentage points higher in front of the Jury than in front of the CDLs. The Jury overruled the decision of the CDLs to purge Law graduates in 26.36% of the cases whereas it only did so in 15.97% of the cases for other defendants. This advantage was consequential and created elite persistence, as it mainly appeared when defendants intended on continuing their political careers. Second, a systematic analysis of the still-classified 17,589 documents of the Jury contained in the dossiers of the defendants is consistent with the hypothesis that the connections of Law graduates to the Jury was a major driver of their advantage and of their ability to avoid the purge. We consider and rule out a series of alternative mechanisms.

The Political Science and Political Economy (PSPE) research group at the LSE brings together faculty and PhD students who do quantitative and/or formal research on political institutions, political behaviour, public policy, and political economy.

The PSPE Research Seminar provides a venue for researchers (mostly from outside of the LSE) to present their work.

These seminars are held on Tuesdays in term time at 14.00-15.30, ONLINE, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar coordinator: Dr Stephane Wolton

Contact gov.comms@lse.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list and to recieve the zoom link.