Image of Dr Aidt Toke

Jesus Fellow wins award for best paper

Dr Toke Aidt has been awarded the Oliver Williamson Best Paper Award, for research that examines democratic purges in post-World War II France.

Dr Aidt, a University Reader, Director of the Keynes Fund, and current Acting Chair of the Faculty of Economics, was recognised by the Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics, along with two co-authors – Jean Lacroix (Université Paris-Saclay) and Pierre-Guillaume Méon (Université libre de Bruxelles) – for their paper ‘From Connections to Persistence: Evidence from Political Purges in World War II France’.

The paper is a good example of how archival research (enabled by a grant from the British Academy) combined with modern econometric methods is a powerful vehicle for studying fundamental questions in institutional economics, in this case the mechanisms behind elite persistence in France after WWII.

This paper studies a new mechanism that allows political elites from a non-democratic regime to survive a democratic transition: connections. The research examines the 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, the paper shows 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, and the paper rules out alternative mechanisms. 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.

The Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics (previously called the International Society for New Institutional Economics) promotes rigorous theoretical and empirical investigation of the institutions of social, political and commercial life using approaches drawn from economics, organization theory, law, political science, and other social sciences. Previous winners of the prize have gone on to publication in many top journals.

The paper: Aidt, T., Lacroix, J., Méon, P-G. The Origins of Elite Persistence: Evidence from Political Purges in post-World War II France, (2022). This is based on an article originally published by the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Economics. It is reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.