Research Seminar

Camilla Nothhaft: Lobbying - Systems and People

Date: 10 May 2017
Time: 10:00-12:00

Camilla Nothhaft is a researcher and lecturer at Lund University, Department of Strategic Communication.


This seminar will present results from a study on how lobbyists and politicians meet in Brussels and the unwritten rules steering their meetings. The aim of the study was to define and further the understanding of the practice of lobbying as it manifests in participants’ interactions with each other and to identify the specific conditions (rules, standards, traits) that characterise this practice.

Lobbying as a field of practice has been around as long as we have had parliaments, and it has been studied critically for at least the last hundred years. The research overview showed that lobbying as a political phenomenon is well researched, but the action of lobbying has largely been taken for granted. Communication between lobbyists and politicians has been seen as merely an act of transmission.

Camilla Nothhaft has conducted shadowing in Brussels and has followed seven lobbyists and politicians for one week each. The main focus was on their meetings and interactions, and the theoretical roots were in impression management and neo-institutionalism.

The results show the strict conditions for the way interactions are undertaken. The main conclusion is that there is a shift away from the role of the straightforward lobbyist. Lobbyists attempt to build relations with politicians so they can meet backstage, where rules other than the frontstage rules for the conversation make other outcomes possible. Backstage, the lobbyists can obtain the soft information they need, and lobbyists and politicians can work together to fulfil their goals. 

The study opens up to discuss questions like:

  • Is it possible to create smart governmental systems that are not affected by human realities?
  • If more complexity, more auditing and more controlled transparency do not necessary create enhanced transparency per se: how can enhanced transparency be achieved?

Read Camilla Nothhaft's doctoral thesis: Moments of lobbying: an ethnographic study of meetings between lobbyists and politicians

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