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The demand side of clientelism: The role of client's perceptions and values


  • Miquel Pellicer

    (GIGA Hamburg, and SALDRU, University of Cape Town)

  • Eva Wegner

    (GIGA Hamburg, and SALDRU, University of Cape Town)

  • Lindsay Benstead

    (Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University)

  • Harold Kincaid

    (School of Economics, RUBEN, University of Cape Town)

  • Ellen Lust

    (Department of Political Science, Yale University)

  • Juanita Vasquez

    (Department of Economics, University of Gottingen)


Political science literature on clientelism has tended to focus primarily on the role of parties and brokers, leaving the demand side of clientelism - the choices of potential clients - relatively unexplored. This paper proposes a formal framework sheding light on the demand side of clientelism. We conceptualize clientelistic choice as one between engaging in clientelism, on the one hand, and supporting a redistributive platform, on the other. This approach allows us to draw insights from the social psychology literature on mobilization and the economics literature on redistribution preferences. Our framework nests the standard model of clientelistic choice, with factors such as poverty and ideological stance, but also includes other factors such as perceptions of political efficacy and values regarding the legitimacy of existing inequalities. We start with a simple static model that allows us to study the role of these factors in a simple, unified way. Our framework is well suited to address issues relatively unexplored in the literature, including the role of clients in the persistence of clientelism and the reasons clientelism persists or is eliminated. Most importantly, we address how clientelism gets transformed from a "traditional" type of clientelism, embedded in legitimized social relations, to a "modern" type, such as vote buying. To address these issues, we study a dynamic extension of the model where efficacy and legitimacy perceptions are endogenized and the degree of informational connectivity in the community is incorporated. In our model, efficacy and legitimation perceptions reinforce each other because efficacy perceptions lead people to expect high and sustained inequality which is then legitimized in order to protect self-esteem. This generates multiple steady states, one of which resembles a "traditional" form of clientelism that features widespread clientelism and disempowered clients that legitimize social inequalities. Informational connectivity breaks this reinforcement mechanism and thus leads to a unique steady state where clientelism and programmatic redistribution co-exist, and that resembles a "modern" type of clientelism.

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  • Miquel Pellicer & Eva Wegner & Lindsay Benstead & Harold Kincaid & Ellen Lust & Juanita Vasquez, 2014. "The demand side of clientelism: The role of client's perceptions and values," SALDRU Working Papers 140, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  • Handle: RePEc:ldr:wpaper:140

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pedro C. Vicente, 2014. "Is Vote Buying Effective? Evidence from a Field Experiment in West Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 356-387, February.
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    7. Miquel Pellicer & Vimal Ranchhod & Mare Sarr & Eva Wegner, 2011. "Inequality Traps in South Africa: An overview and research agenda," SALDRU Working Papers 57, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
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    Clientelism; Demand side; Mobilization;
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