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Benefit-Seeking and the Patron-Client Linkage: Evidence from six Western Balkans Societies

Comparative Politics
Corruption
Electoral Behaviour
Survey Research
Jovan Bliznakovski
Università degli Studi di Milano
Jovan Bliznakovski
Università degli Studi di Milano
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Abstract

Several influential studies that made headway in quantitative formal research on political clientelism (Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007, Stokes et al. 2013, Gans-Morse et al. 2014) have constructed models through which the phenomenon is predominantly explained as a top-down process, with “political machines” (patrons) functioning as effective determinants of the linkage and citizens (clients) implicitly assuming a more passive role. Scott’s (1972) has theorized that both patronage and clientage possess their own resource bases, which, in turn, affect the balance between voluntarism and coercion in the relationship. Such theoretical preliminary paves the possibility to overview clientelism as a phenomenon which is affected not just top-down, but also bottom-up, dependent on the level of citizen autonomy within the linkage. This paper seeks to highlight the need to incorporate citizens as effective determinants of patron-client linkages. By focusing on the role of citizens in the making and breaking of clientelist relationships, the paper builds upon Nichter and Peress’s recent study on “request fulfilling” (2017). Nichter and Peress’s findings on the effect of request fulfilling towards clientelism, on data from Latin America and Africa, are corroborated in data from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia), obtained through the survey of the INFORM project (2017, N=6040). The proposition that the activity of “benefit-seeking” (Chandra 2004) (i.e. expression of demands for particularistic benefits from citizens towards machines) has a positive effect on the probability for clientelist exchange is tested and corroborated through regression analyses. The findings on the bottom-up effect of benefit-seeking towards clientelism are found to be constant at national (in each country) and at regional levels. Furthermore, the findings are robust when controlling for a range of variables: socioeconomic factors, level of political party socialization, place of residence and normative orientations in regard to clientelism.