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Politicians, professionalization and anti-politics: why we want leaders who act like professionals but are paid like amateurs

Politicians, professionalization and anti-politics: why we want leaders who act like professionals but are paid like amateurs
Politicians, professionalization and anti-politics: why we want leaders who act like professionals but are paid like amateurs

Why are politicians so unpopular? One common explanation blames a professionalized political class that is increasingly detached from ‘ordinary citizens’. But, there is very little empirical investigation of what it is about the professionalization of politics that engenders distrust. This article uses 12 focus groups and 15 interviews with civil servants from the Australian Public Service—‘insiders’ with first-hand knowledge and experience of the political system—to reflect on political professionalization and its impacts. As a group, civil servants’ views on this question remain largely unexplored yet their proximity to the political process gives them a distinct vantage point from which to reflect on current explanations for rising anti-political sentiment. We find both positive and negative attitudes towards professionalization that destabilize prevailing explanations: on the demand side, civil servants share first-hand experience and knowledge of how the political process works but remain cynical about politicians, whilst on the supply side, they value governing competence more than demographic representation yet still want more ‘amateur’ politicians. Our reflections on these findings highlight contradictory expectations: we want politicians who act like professionals, but who are paid like amateurs.

0032-2687
1-22
Fawcett, Paul
3ab063f6-071c-43f5-8bc5-9e914ab24f38
Corbett, Jack
ad651655-ac70-4072-a36f-92165e296ce2
Fawcett, Paul
3ab063f6-071c-43f5-8bc5-9e914ab24f38
Corbett, Jack
ad651655-ac70-4072-a36f-92165e296ce2

Fawcett, Paul and Corbett, Jack (2018) Politicians, professionalization and anti-politics: why we want leaders who act like professionals but are paid like amateurs. Policy Sciences, 1-22. (doi:10.1007/s11077-018-9323-7).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Why are politicians so unpopular? One common explanation blames a professionalized political class that is increasingly detached from ‘ordinary citizens’. But, there is very little empirical investigation of what it is about the professionalization of politics that engenders distrust. This article uses 12 focus groups and 15 interviews with civil servants from the Australian Public Service—‘insiders’ with first-hand knowledge and experience of the political system—to reflect on political professionalization and its impacts. As a group, civil servants’ views on this question remain largely unexplored yet their proximity to the political process gives them a distinct vantage point from which to reflect on current explanations for rising anti-political sentiment. We find both positive and negative attitudes towards professionalization that destabilize prevailing explanations: on the demand side, civil servants share first-hand experience and knowledge of how the political process works but remain cynical about politicians, whilst on the supply side, they value governing competence more than demographic representation yet still want more ‘amateur’ politicians. Our reflections on these findings highlight contradictory expectations: we want politicians who act like professionals, but who are paid like amateurs.

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Fawcett and Corbett-Politicians, Professionalisation and Anti-politics-Why we want leaders who act like professionals but are paid like amateurs - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 4 June 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 July 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 421779
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/421779
ISSN: 0032-2687
PURE UUID: e79a4fee-a1fb-403a-bb02-7e62a02209c1
ORCID for Jack Corbett: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2005-7162

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Date deposited: 27 Jun 2018 16:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 06:32

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