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Aleatoric Governance: Elite transformation in Basel, 1688-1798

English title Aleatoric Governance: Elite transformation in Basel, 1688-1798
Applicant Rost Katja
Number 192372
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Soziologisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Sociology
Start/End 01.08.2020 - 31.07.2024
Approved amount 579'722.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Political science
Swiss history
Science of management

Keywords (9)

partial random selections; network analysis; lotteries; quantitative historical data; leadership selection; Baseler Daig; expert organizations; governance mechanisms; elite networks

Lay Summary (German)

Aleatorische Governance: Elitenwandel in Basel, 1688-1798
Lay summary

Die meisten Menschen assoziieren Lotterien mit Glück. Das ist kaum verwunderlich - schließlich kann man in der Lotterie zufällig Millionen gewinnen. Weniger bekannt ist vielleicht die Tatsache, dass Lotterien in verschiedenen Phasen der Geschichte für Entscheidungsprozesse im Militär, in der Politik und in Expertenorganisationen verwendet wurden. Im Militär wurde zum Beispiel eine Wehrpflichtlotterie verwendet, um die Reihenfolge festzulegen, in der amerikanische Soldaten während des Vietnamkriegs zum Dienst verpflichtet wurden. In der Politik haben Lotterien eine reiche Geschichte als Mittel zur Bekämpfung der Korruption und als stabilisierender Mechanismus untereinander konkurrierender sozialer Fraktionen. Zu verschiedenen Zeiten wurden Lotterien, oft in Kombination mit konventionellen Methoden, in der athenischen Demokratie eingesetzt, um den Dogen von Venedig zu wählen und um hochrangige Beamte in Stadtstaaten wie Parma, Bologna, Florenz, Bern und Frankfurt auszuwählen. Während die Literatur, die auf Sokrates und Aristoteles einschließlich Montesquieu und Robespierre zurückgeht, die Auswirkungen solcher aleatorischen Verfahren auf die politische Repräsentation und die Demokratie ausführlich untersucht hat, wurde ihrer potenziellen Bedeutung als Governance-Mechanismus in Expertenorganisationen weniger Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.05.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Most people associate lotteries with luck. This is hardly surprising - after all, you can win millions in the lottery by chance. Perhaps less well known is the fact that lotteries have at various stages in history been integrated into decision-making processes in the military, in politics, and in expert organizations. In the military, for example, a draft lottery was used to establish the order in which American soldiers were called to serve during the Vietnam War. In politics, lotteries have a rich history as a means of fighting corruption and as a stabilizing mechanism among competing factions. At various times, lotteries have been used, often in combination with conventional methods, in the Athenian democracy, to elect the Doge of Venice, and to select high-level officials in city states, including Parma, Bologna, Florence, Bern, and Frankfurt. While a literature tracing back to Socrates and Aristotle, including Montesquieu, and Robespierre, has considered various implications of such aleatoric procedures for political representation and democracy, less attention has been given to their potential role as a governance mechanism in expert organizations. ¬In this project, we consider the deliberate use of lotteries as a governance mechanism for the recruitment of leadership positions in society and in expert organizations. The project has three interdependent lines of enquiry. Subproject A seeks to formulate a conceptual account of aleatoric governance, that is, of uses, implications, benefits, and limitations of partly random selection procedures as governance mechanism for expert organizations. Subproject B and C are empirical. Subproject B examines the use of lotteries in the Swiss city state of Basel in the 18th century. In Basel, lotteries were introduced in the late 17th century in response to an increasing consolidation of power by an inner circle of elite families, collectively termed the Baseler Daig, who had come to dominate the economic, cultural, and political spheres of the city and canton. The declared aim of the lotteries was to mitigate nepotism and restore a balance of power in various areas of local social life, including politics, the guilds, the clergy, and the University. Our analysis focuses on the shifting role of the social networks of the elite families of the Baseler Daig. We will analyze the actual candidate pools of the lotteries, the appointments that resulted, and the social relations that were forged in the various spheres of social life: economic, political, religious, intellectual, and kinship. Our analysis will allow us to show empirically whether and how the introduction of lotteries was effective in dissolving the insider relations that pervaded the city at that time. Subproject C considers how lotteries affected hiring outcomes in one particular expert organization, the University of Basel.To our knowledge, this is the first proposal to study the role of partly randomized selection processes as a governance mechanism to tackle various problems of coordinated agency, including insider relationships, favoritism, and leader corruption in expert organizations. In developing our research design, we will build on our extensive experience in conducting large-scale historical, quantitative research using social network analysis. In preparing this proposal, we have established that the data needed for the analyses are indeed available at the Basel State Archive and that they are of sufficient accuracy, granularity, and completeness to realize the proposed project. The proposed project has a duration of four years.