Preface and Acknowledgments
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ix preface and acknowledgments A former Swedish party leader once asked me what I study. I told him that I am interested in politicians with career ambitions. “Are there really such politicians?” he replied. The question was rather telling. In Swedish political memoirs and even in Swedish political science the notion of ambitious politicians has long been frowned upon. As I have come to realize, this skepticism is not just a Swedish phenomenon but an overall European one. Ambitious politicians are somehow seen both as a problem and as something that does not even exist. In this book, I take inspiration from the prevalent American discussion about ambition in politics, and I claim that there is a similar category of politicians who strive to become leaders of the party-centred European democracies. What is more, those politicians reach high positions and are different from those who do not: politicians with career ambitions have a distinct idea of representation. They perceive their own opinion to be of greater importance than other politicians do, and they are more active in their party’s group meetings. Politicians with career ambitions are also more prone to develop a strategy that aims at being responsive to the wishes of the party elite. I also show that politicians with career ambitions are more common in some European parliaments than in others. In more equalitarian societies there are fewer politicians with career ambitions. Countries like Greece and Italy have considerably more politicians with career ambitions in their parliaments than countries like Germany and Sweden. Therefore, it would be a mistake not to consider career ambitions in analyses of party-centred democratic systems. My hope is that this book will contribute to a greater interest in and understanding of individuals who aim at—and obtain—top positions in representative democracies. With that said, I’d like to take this opportunity to be more personal. For a period of time, I have had two odd goals in my life (among other goals, I should add). One was to bench press at least 150 kilograms (about 330 pounds), and the other was to publish the book you hold in your hands. I have now accomplished both of them. For the progression in the gym, I have to give most of the credit to myself. (Yet, I do want to thank all the guys in the gym who over the years have lifted bars off my chest when my optimism was stronger than my muscles.) For the book, in contrast, many people deserve to be acknowledged and thanked for making the project possible. Among them, Paul Sniderman deserves x preface and acknowledgments special note. Paul, I am so grateful for all your efforts and for believing that this project had potential. I also want to thank my skilled and dedicated colleagues at the vibrant Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg. I always find it fun to go to work. A special mention goes to Peter Esaiasson and Lena Wängnerud, who once upon a time were my supervisors and who have supported me so much during the research that led to this book. A sincere thank you also goes to all the Swedish Members of Parliament (MPs) who after each election since 1985 have answered the Parliament Survey conducted at the Swedish National Election Study Program at the University of Gothenburg. Without their efforts, our research on political elites would not be possible. An indispensable insight into the MPs’ everyday life was given to me when I received a Parliamentary scholarship that made it possible for me to work in the Riksdag for a year. I am very happy for that opportunity. I am also very grateful to Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, which funded the translation of my manuscript, and to Sören Holmberg, who vouched for me during that process and who has supported me in important ways throughout this project. Finally, it is appropriate to thank my “wingman”—Elin Naurin. It is such a privilege to have you as a colleague, coauthor, and wife. I truly believe that our best days are ahead of us, and that is to say a lot, since we have had so many good ones already. To Miranda and William: you are my wonderful darlings. I am looking forward to many more exciting endeavors and discussions about what is going on in the world—in yours and in mine. ...