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A sophisticated yet accessible analysis of the acquisition and marketability of political skills

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Copyright © 2008, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

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What would you do if, the very day you were hired, you knew you could be unemployed in as little as two years? You'd seek opportunities in your current job to develop a portfolio of skills and contacts in order to make yourself more attractive to future employers. Representatives and senators think about their jobs in Congress in this way, according to Glenn R. Parker.

While in office, members of Congress plan not merely for the next election but for the next stage of their careers. By networking, serving on committees, and championing particular legislation, they deliberately accumulate human capital---expertise, networks, and reputation---which later will give them bargaining power in the job market. Parker's study of the postelective careers of more than 200 former members of Congress, both U.S. representatives and senators, who have left office during the last half century shows that such strategic planning generally succeeds. In most cases, the human capital these politicians amassed while in office increased their occupational mobility and earning power.

Capitol Investments offers a sophisticated yet accessible analysis of the acquisition and marketability of political skills. It suggests that an awareness of the trade in human capital shapes an officeholder's actions as much as the desire to win another election.

Glenn R. Parker is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University.

Glenn R. Parker is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Purdue University.