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Performance and Promotions in an Autocracy: Evidence from Nazi Germany

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Scholars of autocracies increasingly debate whether autocratic regimes promote their subordinates based on achievements, such as economic performance, and further a meritocratic system. This article argues that the extent to which autocratic regimes reward economic performance is not constant over the course of an autocratic regime’s lifespan but varies depending on the strategic goals of the regime and the regime's ability to monitor its subordinates' performance. We collect a new dataset on the careers of the regional leaders of the German Nazi Party, the Gauleiters, from 1936 to 1944, and a wealth of historical data sources from the regime. Using this, we show that better regional economic performance increased the chance of receiving a promotion before the outbreak of World War II but not after.

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Keywords: Nazi Germany; authoritarian regimes; autocratic elites; economic performance; historical political economy; promotions

Appeared or available online: March 4, 2021

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