Focusing first on the party-centered politics of European democracies, where career ambitions are necessarily different than those in the United States, Patrik OEhberg looks closely at what motivates those aiming at the highest level of the political hierarchy, how these motivators differ between more and less equalitarian societies, and how such ambitions play out. His book, which draws upon a uniquely extensive survey conducted by the Swedish National Election Study Program, is the first thorough study of elite politicians who aspire to the top echelons of the parliamentary system. Politicians with career ambitions have a distinct idea of representation, OEhberg finds; they display a higher degree of political self-regard and are more responsive to the wishes of the party elite in developing strategies. These findings vary among European democracies, and they differ from the traits and trajectories of political ambition in the United States. By identifying the subtleties and charting the differences, OEhberg offers a valuable lesson on whether and how representative democracies are served by politicians driven by personal ambition, or by those subverting such ambitions to the needs of party or state.
Patrik OEhberg is associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg.