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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Political Clientelism in the 21st Century: Theory and Practice

Parties and elections
Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Hubert Faustmann
University of Nicosia
Workshop Co-Director
Sertac Sonan
Cyprus International University

Workshop Title: Political Clientelism in the 21st Century: Theory and Practice

Outline of the Workshops Academic Content and Its Relation to the Existing Literature
Within the literature on party competition there is a general assumption that citizens vote for a platform or program rather than narrow personal material gains. However, in many countries all over the globe elections are decided by offering favours in the form of money, jobs, and services in exchange for votes. This is not just the case in developing countries but also in highly industrialized liberal democracies. This phenomenon is captured well by the literature on political clientelism.

Clientelism is a very broad concept “at the crossroads of politics and administration, economy and society” (Roniger 2004: 354). Reflecting this multifaceted nature, the study of clientelism has been the common domain of anthropologists, historians, sociologists and political scientists (Scott 1977c: 483). Given this variety, no wonder that the concept means “different things to different people” (Medina and Stokes 2002: 2), and this difference grows bigger when these people come from different disciplinary backgrounds. In particular, definitions attributed to the very same concept by anthropologists on the one hand, and political scientists on the other, proved to be so divergent that it has become indispensable to specify from the outset, which type of clientelism or patronage is being analyzed (Weingrod 1968: 380).

Having emerged as a tool of analysis used by anthropologists to study the interpersonal relationships in small rural communities the meaning attached to the concept has changed substantially as it has come to be used as a tool for studying complex political systems at national level. Complicating things further, diverse terms such as patron-client relationships/ties, patronage, party-based patronage, clientelismo, mass clientelism, new clientelism, semiclientelism, bureaucratic clientelism, machine politics, clientelism of notables, porkbarrelling, and political jobbery are used in different contexts to express variants of clientelism.

Weingrod defines patronage in the anthropological sense as a type of social relationship, and describes the study of patronage from this perspective as the “analysis of how persons of unequal authority, yet linked through ties of interest and friendship, manipulate their relationships in order to attain their ends” (1968: 379-80). Patronage from the political scientist’s perspective, on the other hand, takes the political party as the main unit of analysis, and “refers to the ways in which party politicians distribute public jobs or special favors in exchange for electoral support” (ibid.: 379). It is “largely the study of how political party leaders seek to turn public institutions and public resources to their own ends, and how favors of various kinds are exchanged for votes” (ibid.).
Against this backdrop, our working definition of political clientelism for this workshop will be in Piattoni’s words, “the trade of votes and other types of partisan support in exchange for public decisions with divisible benefits, which involves not only the distribution of jobs and goods but also the exploitation of the entire machinery of the state as ‘a token of exchange’” (2001a: 4). “From a birth certificate to a building permit, from a disability pension to public housing, from a development project to a tax exemption” (ibid.: 6) almost everything under the control of the state can be subject to this exchange. As Kenny notes, “it is not a question here of considering that one may be entitled to these things by right, for between what is one’s right and what is possible lie a thousand different shrugs of the shoulder” (cited in Eisenstadt and Roniger 1984: 73). A patron seeking the vote of the client can make his client’s life much easier by ensuring “that the agents of the state either deal with the client honestly, or when required dishonestly … by ignoring tax regulations, building codes, anti-squatter legislation, proper procedures for charging water and electricity, or by giving favorable legal judgments” (Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007: 11); in Chubb’s words these are “nonmonetary forms of patronage” (1982: 247; see also 211-6). Vice versa is also true. The life of an opposition supporter can be easily turned into nightmare by implementing laws selectively. In a former Peruvian president’s words, “for my friends anything. For my enemies the law”.

In the literature “an ideal-type of ‘responsible party government’ in which parties offer packages of policies justified in terms of a principled defense of the ‘public interest’”, is set as a benchmark against political clientelism (Hopkin 2001: 117) as without specifying what clientelism is not, it is impossible to define what it is. These packages will, no doubt, be formulated in a way that they will benefit certain groups within the electorate that the party sees as its electoral base, while making the others worse off. The benefits are therefore directed to very large groups to attract as much support as possible. Then, these policy packages or programs are implemented without verifying whether the beneficiaries have actually voted for the party or not. Given that, according to the responsible party government model, the linkage between the voter and the party is programmatic, and unlike clientelistic politics (where exchange is contingent and direct), “the politicians enter a non-contingent, indirect political exchange” (Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007: 10). As Kitschelt puts it [i]n the analysis of programmatic and clientelist politics, we … have to separate definitional distinctions from empirical associations. In definitional terms, only the procedural nature of exchange relations counts to separate clientelist from programmatic linkage (direct versus indirect exchange). Empirically, party competition based on predominantly programmatic linkages may result in greater depersonalization of politics, more collective goods provision, and more institutionalization than clientelist politics. This is a contingent empirical association, however, diluted by democratic polities with predominantly clientelist linkages that are also highly institutionalized and routinized (2000: 853).

Obviously, in its current modern form, which is characterized by the involvement of categorical groups -political parties as patrons and entire social groups as clients- engaged in impersonal, bureaucratic and institutionalized political exchange, political clientelism has come to be perceived as politics as usual; as Piattoni puts it, “a variant of particularistic politics,” and not as a “cultural pathology” or “developmental distortion” (2001a: 7). In Eisenstadt and Lemarchand words, “[t]he burgeoning literature on patron-client relationships has … recognized that such relationships can be found in many societies and civilizations, on different levels of economic development and social differentiation and in a great variety of cultural traditions” (1981: 1-2). In this respect, clientelism has come to be taken as a social exchange; a method of mobilizing political support (Chubb 1981 and 1982); a strategy to maintain power (Shefter 1994; Piattoni 2001); a method of electoral mobilization (Roniger 2004; Stokes 2007); or a linkage mechanism of democratic accountability (Kitschelt 2000; Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007); rather than an anomaly dictated by socio-cultural or socio-economic context per se.

This makes the political clientelism literature a useful toolkit to analyze various political systems around the world.
Why is there a need for a workshop on political clientelism?
The concept of political clientelism started to be used in political science literature in the late 1960s. Thanks to its usefulness in analyzing the empirical evidence from developing countries, the concept came to attract immense scholarly interest, and in the first decade of its introduction “in the lexicon of political scientists countless books and articles have been devoted to the exploration of clientelistic phenomena in settings as diverse as China and Columbia, Italy and Senegal, Venezuela and Lebanon” (Lemarchand 1981: 7). This interest did not last for long, however, and as Kitschelt and Wilkinson point out, “between 1978 and the late 1990s very little of theoretical consequence has been written about clientelism” (2007: 6). Then came two seminal works; the edited volumes by Piattoni (2001) and Kitschelt and Wilkinson (2007), which added both theoretically and through the presentation of new case studies significantly to the literature. Ever since research on clientelism has been stagnating again. The aim of this workshop is to rekindle interest in the concept of political clientelism as a heuristic tool, contribute to its conceptualization and add new or updated case studies to the literature.

Description of the Expected Profile of the Participants
Political scientists and political economists working on political parties, political participation, representation, political culture, and economic development dealing with the phenomenon of political clientelism.

Research questions include:
In times of rising populism is there a danger for regression from programmatic politics to clientelism?
What is the relationship between populism and political clientelism?
Why do politicians embark on clientelistic behaviour and why do citizens respond?
What are national and subnational patterns of partronage?
How does the interaction of economic development, party competition, governance of the economy and ethnic heterogeneity determine the forms and patterns of clientelistic behavior?
What can be done to combat political clientelism as a form of political corruption?
What challenges and opportunities do “critical junctures” pose for clientelistic systems?

Type of Papers
We welcome country studies, case studies of international and national institutions as well as theoretical contributions; comparative studies are particularly welcome.

Selected Bibliography
Chubb, Judith (1981). “The Social Bases of an Urban Political Machine: The Christian Democratic Party in Palermo.” In S.N. Eisenstadt and Rene Lemarchand, eds., Political Clientelism, Patronage, and Development. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Chubb, Judith (1982). Patronage, Power, and Poverty in Southern Italy: A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Eisenstadt, Shmuel and René Lemarchand, eds. (1981). Political Clientelism, Patronage and Development. London: Sage.

Eisenstadt, Shmuel N., and Luis Roniger (1984). Patrons, clients and friends: Interpersonal relations and the structures of trust in society. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Hopkin, Jonathan (2001). “A ‘Southern Model’ of Electoral Mobilization? Clientelism and Electoral Politics in post-Franco Spain.” West European Politics 24 (1): 115-36.

Kitschelt, Herbert (2000). “Linkages Between Citizens and Politicians in Democratic Polities.” Comparative Political Studies 33(6/7): 845-879.

Kitschelt, Herbert and Steven I. Wilkinson (2007a). “Citizen-politician linkages: an introduction.” In Herbert Kitschelt and Steven I. Wilkinson, eds., Patrons, Clients, and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Kitschelt, Herbert and Steven I. Wilkinson (2007b). “A research agenda for the study of citizen–politician linkages and democratic accountability.” In Herbert Kitschelt and Steven I. Wilkinson eds., Patrons, Clients, and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lemarchand, Rene (1981). “Comparative Political Clientelism: Structure, Process and Optic.” In S.N. Eisenstadt and Rene Lemarchand, eds., Political Clientelism, Patronage,and Development. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Piattoni, Simona (2001a). “Clientelism in Historical and Comparative Perspective.” In Simona Piattoni, ed., Clientelism, Interests, and Democratic Representation: The European Experience in Historical and Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Piattoni, Simona (2001b). “Clientelism, Interests, and Democratic Representation.” In Simona Piattoni, ed., Clientelism, Interests, and Democratic Representation: The European Experience in Historical and Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roniger, Luis (2004). “Political clientelism, democracy, and market economy.” Comparative Politics, 36(3): 353–75.

Scott, James C. (1977c). “Political Clientelism: A Bibliographical Essay.” In Steffen W. Schmidt, Laura Guasti, Carl H. Lande and James C. Scott, eds., Friends, Followers, and Factions: A Reader in Political Clientelism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Stokes, Susan C. (2007). “Political Clientelism.” In Susan C. Stokes and Carles Boix, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Weingrod, Alex (1968). “Patrons, Patronage and Political Parties.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 10 (4): 377-400.

Paper List

Title Details
Benefit-Seeking and the Patron-Client Linkage: Evidence from six Western Balkans Societies View Paper Details
Brokerage of Electoral Currency and the Effects of Clientelist Linkage in CEE Transitional Political Processes View Paper Details
Clientelism and Local Ties View Paper Details
Clientelism from the Client’s Perspective: A Theoretical Framework based on a Systematic Review of International Ethnographic Literature View Paper Details
Local Level Clientelism in Transition: A Comparison of Eastern Partnership Countries View Paper Details
Political Clientelism and Conflict Resolution: The Case of Cyprus View Paper Details
Post-Clientelistic Initiatives in a Patronage Democracy: The (Non) Distribution of Pork in India’s MGNREGA View Paper Details
State Size and Clientelism: A Comparative Case Study of Malta View Paper Details
Vote for sale. A politic answer to the vote buying and coercion. View Paper Details
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