Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 March 2020
This paper examines the concept “career politician.” It seeks to clarify, systematize, and measure this ambiguous multidimensional concept in order to facilitate testing theories and hypotheses associated with it. We argue that career politicians are full-time politicians who lack significant experience in the wider world and have other distinguishing attributes for which they are both appreciated and criticized. From claims and critiques put forward by political scientists, journalists, publics, and politicians, we extract four principal dimensions: Strong Commitment, Narrow Occupational Background, Narrow Life Experience, and Strong Ambition. These dimensions and their indicators fit Wittgenstein’s family-resemblance conceptual structure, which is how we analyze, measure and validate them with data from a longitudinal study of British MPs spanning 1971–2016.