The Candidates

Oxford University Press, 2024

Can amateurs transform politics? And what do they tell us about what type of activity it is? This book is based on a rare social experiment. In 2017, in the aftermath of Macron’s election in France, close to 100 amateurs were elected to the French parliament. The author followed their steps during their first years. The result is a gripping story about their discovery of this peculiar world.

This exploration is a contribution to the debates on the impact of political experience on political practice. Far from being just a scholarly matter, offers answers to some pressing contemporary debates – about the political class, the role of institutions, or about the potential of direct and participatory democracy to usher in change.

Praise for The Candidates

“Painstakingly researched, rigorously argued, and beautifully written, this book not only offers an insightful deep dive into the often-paradoxical world of French politics but also, and as importantly, a way of understanding and explicating the relationship between political trajectory, experience, and actual practice all over the world.” Javier Auyero, University of Texas at Austin

“There is a new enemy in many Western democracies today: the « career politician.” Will the insurgent political newcomers who attack the status quo in so many capitals around the world succeed? Through an unusual combination of ethnography, in-depth interviews, and computational methods, Étienne Ollion offers the most authoritative answer to this question I’ve yet seen. His book offers new theoretical insight, rigorous empirical inquiry, and a compelling new model for how social science can be done.” Chris Bail, Duke University

“Ollion deftly mobilizes a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods to show how, in spite of this striking renewal of personnel, an institutionalized “waiting line” continued to regulate access to the levers of power. The demonstration is brilliant and essential, with implications for the study of politics everywhere.” Marion Fourcade, UC Berkeley

Outline of the book

Militant Certainties and Scientific Questions
A Sociologist in the House
The Illusion of a Renewal
Waiting Lines and the Making of Homo Politicus

1. Down with Career Politicians
The Cyclical Return of an Old Criticism
Political Careers from a Historical Perspective
A Brutal Reconfiguration

2. A Palace War, not a Revolution
Changes in the House
Throw the Bums Out!

3. Up-and-Comers
Can Parliamentary Success Be Measured?
Parliaments as Hierarchical, Differentiated Spaces
The Passing of Time

4. Life Changes
A Dilated Time
The Aristocratic Use of Time
Becoming Public Property
Striking Blows and Making Deals

5. The Passion for Politics
Decreasing Returns
Exploring the Political Illusio

Conclusion: In the Waiting Line of Politics

To access elements about statistical methods, click here for political careers; click here for measures of success in parliament.


[Preprint] (with J. Boelaert et al.), « Machine Bias. LLMs have a Worldview of Their Own »

[Publication] (with S. Mützel), « Machine Learning and the Analysis of Culture, a Review Essay« , in The Oxford Handbook of Machine Learning, 2024.

[Publication] The Dangers of Using Proprietary LLMs for Research, in Nature Machine Intelligence, Jan 2024

[Publication] The Candidates. Amateurs and Professionals in Politics, Oxford Press, Jan 2024

[Présentation] S’augmenter, (version 2, janvier 2024). Comment utiliser l’IA pour étudier des corpus massifs [slides].

[Présentation] S’augmenter. Comment utiliser l’IA pour étudier des corpus massifs [slides, vidéo].

[Présentation] Enquêter avec de l’IA. Atelier à lors des journées IA et journalisme à l’ESJ de Lille.

[Preprint] ChatGPT for Text Annotation? Mind the Hype! [preprint pdf]

[Tutorial] « How to Become an Augmented Social Scientist? » Tutorial at IC2S2 in July 2023

[Summer School] SICSS-Paris in June 2023!

[Resources] Have you seen the brand new CSS@Paris-Saclay website? The one-stop shop to know everything about our research, future events, and work opportunities. You will also find lots of R & Python resources.

[Publication] « Que vaut un député? Ce que l’indemnité dit du mandat ». [Note IPP; Twitter; Ressources; Article & infographie dans Le Monde].

[Publication] « La fin du renouvellement? Portrait social et politique de la XVIème législature ». [Note IPP; Twitter; Données; Article & infographie Le Monde].

[Publication] « The Augmented Social Scientist. Using Sequential Transfer Learning to Annotate Millions of Texts with Human-Level Accuracy », published in Sociological Methods and Research. [pdf, twitter].

[Publication] Les candidats in the media

[Summer School] SICSS-Paris in June 2022!

[Publication] : Les candidats, Presses universitaires de France, October 13th 2021

[Conference] Colloque international « Qu’est-ce qui échappe à l’Intelligence artificielle? Approches interdisciplinaires« , École polytechnique, 21 & 22 septembre 2021.

[Cours] Mise en ligne du cours « Stratégies numériques pour les sciences sociales« , pour apprendre à collecter, traiter, et nettoyer des données numériques avec R.