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


  • S. Aidt Toke
  • Jean Lacroix
  • Pierre-Guillaume Méon


This paper studies a new mechanism that allows political elites from a nondemocratic regime to survive a democratic transition: connections. Wedocument this mechanism in the transition from the Vichy regime to democracy in post-World War II France. The parliamentarians who had supported the Vichy regime were purged in a two-stage process where each case was judged twice by two different courts. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we show that Law graduates, a powerful social group in French politics with strong connections to one of the two courts, had a clearance rate that was 10 percentage points higher than others. This facilitated the persistence of that elite group. A systematic analysis of 17,589 documents from the defendants' dossiers is consistent with the hypothesis that the connections of Law graduates to one of the two courts were a major driver of their ability to avoid the purge. We consider and rule out alternative mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • S. Aidt Toke & Jean Lacroix & Pierre-Guillaume Méon, 2022. "The Origins of Elite Persistence: Evidence from Political Purges in post-World War II France," Working Papers CEB 22-006, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:2013/343166

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Montagnes, B. Pablo & Wolton, Stephane, 2019. "Mass Purges: Top-Down Accountability in Autocracy," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1045-1059, November.
    2. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson & Daniel M. Sturm, 2010. "Political Competition, Policy and Growth: Theory and Evidence from the United States," CEP Discussion Papers dp1009, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:113:y:2019:i:04:p:1045-1059_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Anna Bindler & Randi Hjalmarsson, 2019. "Path Dependency in Jury Decision Making," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 17(6), pages 1971-2017.
    5. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson & Daniel M. Sturm, 2010. "Political Competition, Policy and Growth: Theory and Evidence from the US," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(4), pages 1329-1352.
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    Cited by:

    1. Deter, Max & Lange, Martin, 2023. "Are the supporters of socialism the losers of capitalism? Conformism in East Germany and transition success," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 76(C).
    2. Remo Nitschke & Felix Roesel, 2023. "Elite Persistence and Policy Persistence: Re-Installed Mayors from Weimar Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 10251, CESifo.

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    More about this item


    Purges; Political transitions; Elite persistence; Connections;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P48 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies


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