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Technocratic governments: power, expertise and crisis politics in European democracies

Pastorella, Giulia (2016) Technocratic governments: power, expertise and crisis politics in European democracies. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The aim of my thesis is to investigate the reasons for the appointment of technocratic governments in Europe. In order to do this, I conceptualise what technocratic governments are, both in terms of their own characteristics and in comparison with party governments. I problematize classic elements, such as independence, neutrality and expertise of ministers, and add further ones including the relation to electoral outcomes, their particular type of agenda, and the echo they have in the media. Having established that technocratic governments require a shift in politicians’ preferences away from typical office-seeking behaviour, I proceed to enquire as to the situations that make their appointment more likely. Through a statistical analysis on all European cabinets from 1977 to 2013, I identify situations of economic and political crises – in particular scandals - as the main variables influencing the likelihood of technocratic government appointments. I further examine how these crises have lead to these appointments by exploring cases of over 25 technocratic governments in a range of countries and years. The qualitative illustrative evidence highlights the importance of institutional characteristics of the given political system in which such governments were appointed. The status of the party system, the role of the Head of State and external pressures coming from international or supranational institutionas are thus shown to be important in technocratic cabinet appointments. Finally, I assess whether technocratic governments fit within the European democratic standards and conclude that technocratic governments are symptoms of the decline of party democracy, identifiable in the loosening of delegation and accountability ties between parties and cabinets, increasing external pressures on domestic political actors, and the weakening of partisan ideology-based politics. The thesis adds further elements to reinforce the already vast literature on the crisis of – especially party – democracy in Europe.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Giulia Pastorella
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > European Institute
Supervisor: White, Jonathan and Hobolt, Sara

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