Benjamin Rohr

Benjamin Rohr

Postdoctoral Researcher

Department of Sociology, University of Mannheim

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Mannheim. As a political and historical sociologist, I use quantitative and computational methods to study elite political action.

My dissertation examines the relationship between state formation and the emergence of the first political parties in the state of New York between 1777 and 1820. It pays particular attention to the processes that tied political elites into the emerging party system, focusing on the role of social networks and political careers. This research was supported by an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant.

Other work analyzes the career paths that led into elite administrative positions in the American state between 1850 and 2000, the structure of political careers in China from 1978 to 2012, and the structure of political discourse in Renaissance Florence. You can read more about my work here.


Party and State Formation in the U.S.

  • Rohr, Benjamin. 2022. “Portraits of a Political World: The Structure of the First Party System in New York, 1777-1822” (Dissertation)


    We tend to take for granted the existence and operation of electoral parties in modern democracies. But where did they come from? This dissertation is a study of party formation in the theoretically important case of the United States where parties emerged pretty much from scratch. Drawing on several novel datasets, I examine the emergence and structure of the first party system in the pivotal state of New York, focusing on the crucial years between the ratification of the U.S. constitution in 1788 and the election of 1800. I first show that the Federalists and Republicans in New York cannot be understood as the politicization of pre-existing social master categories like class or region. The product of divisions within the political elite, both parties looked very much alike in terms of the sociodemographic characteristics of their members. This opened up opportunities for skilled political elites to form new and complex webs of alliances. To understand these alliances, I turn to the social networks political elites were embedded in. Existing social ties pulled and pushed elites to one side or the other. But as social “bricoleurs,” they also actively used them to form new networks of political support. Even though the structure of elite social networks goes a long way towards explaining the structure of the emerging party system, these networks do not fully explain it. Very early on, the political field in New York was so well-developed that it produced sophisticated political actors who were not tied down by their positions in social space. Their actions were underdetermined by the social, and there was room for an endogenous political process irreducible to pre-existing social structures. I first examine this process through an analysis of roll call voting in the state assembly. I demonstrate that parties in the sense of voting blocs formed at three moments in time and appeared most clearly around procedural issues that had to do with access to public office. I then provide a systematic analysis of office-holding to show that competition for control of the state, and the alliances it produced, was at the core of party formation. As political actors tried to build their careers in a rapidly changing institutional structure, they increasingly sorted themselves into two opposing camps that both contemporaries and historical social scientists have come to understand as the first political parties in American history. I end with a look at those who switched parties during their careers. The analysis of party switching highlights that ambitious political actors were able and willing to cut existing social relationships when this was required to advance politically.

  • Rohr, Benjamin and John Levi Martin. “The Formation of the First American Party System: The Case of New York”

  • Combs, Marissa and Benjamin Rohr. “Party Formation in Multiple Networks”

Political Careers in the U.S.

In a collaborative project with William McAllister (Columbia University), I study the career paths that led into elite administrative positions in the American state between 1850 and 2000.

  • Rohr, Benjamin and William McAllister. “The Boundaries of the American State: Transformations in the Recruitment Structure of Elite Administrative Positions, 1850-2000”

  • Rohr, Benjamin. “Networks and Elite Cohesion in the American Administrative State, 1850-2000”

Political Careers in China

Jia, Shilin and Benjamin Rohr. “Vacancy Chains as Strategy: Inter-Administration Mobility of Political Elites in Reform China,”


Scholars of large bureaucracies, whether public or private, have long understood that getting a job involves both the person striving to be chosen as well as the organization making the choice. While extant work focuses on interindividual comparisons between job-seekers, we formulate a complementary account that views mobility from the perspective of the organization and directs attention to the organizational strategies behind personnel management. We apply this account to a study of the strategies governing career advancement in the Chinese party-state. Drawing on a novel dataset of more than 2,500 inter-organizational transfers derived from the CVs of more than 5,000 political elites, we find that elites whose transfers are embedded in long vacancy chains have more successful careers than those whose transfers occur in isolation. This career boost happens after their involvement in vacancy chains and is stronger for younger elites than for older ones. These findings are consistent with a strategy of organizational sponsorship whereby the CCP strategically moves promising young officials through positions to groom them for future leadership roles. Sponsorship becomes more important over time and can be seen as the CCP’s attempt to counter the increasing decentralization of the Chinese state during the reform period.

Political Discourse in the Weimar Republic

Together with John Levi Martin (University of Chicago) and Farah Aly (University of Mannheim) I am currently in the process of digitizing the protocols of the German Reichstag during the Weimarer Republic. The goal is to use these data to study parliamentary discourse in the Weimar Republic using NLP tools.

Political Discourse in Renaissance Florence

  • Padgett, John F., Katalin Prajda, Benjamin Rohr, and Jonathan Schoots. 2020. “Political Discussion and Debate in Narrative Time: The Florentine Consulte e Pratiche, 1376-1378.” Poetics 78.

  • Schoots, Jonathan, Benjamin Rohr, Katalin Prajda, and John F. Padgett. 2020. “Political Conflict and Revolt in Generational Time: The Florentine Consulte e Pratiche and Ciompi Revolt, 1376-1378.” Poetics 78.


  • Rohr, Benjamin and John Levi Martin. 2021. “How (Not) to Control for Population Size in Ecological Analyses.” Sociological Methods and Research. Online First:


    It is common for social scientists to use formal quantitative methods to compare ecological units such as towns, schools, or nations. In many cases, the size of these units in terms of the number of individuals subsumed in each differs substantially. When the variables in question are counts, there is generally some attempt to neutralize differences in size by turning variables into ratios or by controlling for size. But methods that are appropriate in many demographic and epidemiological contexts have been used in settings where they may not be justified and may well introduce spurious relations between variables. We suggest local regressions as a simple diagnostic and generalized additive models as a superior modeling strategy, with double-residualized regressions as a backup for certain cases.

  • Bokanga, Maurice, Benjamin Rohr, and John Levi Martin. “Economic Networks and Political Culture.” Forthcoming in Handbook of Culture and Social Network Analysis


Political Networks, University of Mannheim, Summer 2023. Syllabus

Social Networks and Politics, University of Mannheim, Fall 2022, Summer 2023. Syllabus

B.A. Thesis Colloquium, University of Mannheim, Fall 2022

Practicum in Historical Sociology, University of Chicago, Spring 2020. Syllabus, Poster

Political Sociology, University of Chicago, Autumn 2019

Applications of Hierarchical Models in Longitudinal and Multilevel Research, University of Chicago, Spring 2018

B.A. Thesis Seminar, University of Chicago, Spring 2017 - Winter 2018


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