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Clientelism's Red Herrings: Dead Ends and New Directions in the Study of Nonprogrammatic Politics

Authors
  • Hicken, Allen
  • Nathan, Noah L.
Type
Published Article
Publisher
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
May 11, 2020
Volume
23
Pages
277–294
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-050718-032657
Source
Annual Reviews
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Research on clientelism often starts from a shared puzzle: How can clientelism be a viable electoral strategy if voters can renege on their commitments to politicians? The standard solution proposed is that politicians resolve this commitment problem with voters through monitoring and enforcement. But there has been startlingly little evidence of individual-level monitoring and enforcement in the recent literature, and many studies now document the use of clientelism even where politicians are aware that the commitment problem remains completely intractable. When read together, recent studies suggest that the focus on resolving the commitment problem is a red herring. Instead, it is increasingly clear that clientelism does not need to be monitored and that the commitment problem does not bind as politicians choose their electoral appeals. New puzzles, motivated by advances in the recent literature, deserve comparatively more attention in future research.

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