We are seeking papers on the theme of “Clientelism in 21st century: Theory and Practice in South Asia” for the summer 2021 issue of the semi-annual scholarly journal, Pakistan Journal of Historical Studies (PJHS), published by the Indiana University Press (Bloomington, USA).
In a participatory democracy, decentralisation is significant since it allows citizens to have influence over public decision making for the formulation and implementation of policies. With the transfer of power to elected local bodies, it was expected that the democratic environment and institution for good governance and development would be established and it would facilitate the participation of citizens in the decision-making process. However, what is imminent, especially in underdeveloped and unequal communities (particularly in South Asia) is the problem of political clientelism that public resources may be allocated to individuals or specific groups who are associated with a political party or leaders locally in power.
Clientelism is a 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 a common domain for anthropologists, historians, sociologists and political scientists (Scott, 1977:483). Given this variety, no wonder the concept means ‘different things to different people’ (Stokes, 2007:2) and this difference grows bigger when people come from various disciplinary backgrounds. In particular, definitions attributed to the same concept by anthropologists on one hand, and political scientists, on the other hand, has proved to be so divergent that it becomes indispensable to specify them at the outset, which type of clientelism or patronage is being analysed (Weingrod, 1968:380). For instance, Weigngrod defines patronage in the anthropological sense as a type of social relationship ‘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 favours 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 favours of various kinds are exchanged for votes” (ibid.).
Against this backdrop, our working definition of clientelism for this special issue will be in the words of Piattoni’s, “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). This makes political clientelism literature a useful toolkit to analyse the political system around South Asia.
Why there is a need to do research on clientelism?
In political science literature, the concept of clientelism has been investigated since the 1960s. This concept came to attract immense scholarly interest, and in the first year since its introduction in the lexicon of political scientists countless books and articles have been devoted to the exploration of clientelistic phenomena in the context of developed and developing countries. 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’ (2007a: 6). Then came two seminal works; the edited volumes by Piattoni (2001a and b) and Kitschelt and Wilkinson (2007a and b), which made significant contributions to the literature. Ever since then research on clientelism has been stagnating again. The aim of this issue is to rekindle interest in the concept of political clientelism and to add new or updated case studies to the literature particularly from the South Asian perceptive.
Research questions (but not limited to) which will be addressed in this special issue are?
- Does decentralisation in local bodies promote clientelism in South Asia?
- Why do politicians embark on clientelistic behaviour and why do citizens respond?
- What are national and subnational patterns of patronage?
- What can be done to combat political clientelism as a form of political corruption?
- What are the various models have the South Asian states adopted to keep clientelism at bay?
Types of papers
We welcome papers on this concept from academicians/activists/students working across South Asia. The papers can either be theoretical, empirical or comparative studies contributing to the existing literature.
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.
Weingrod, Alex (1968). “Patrons, Patronage and Political Parties.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 10 (4): 377-400.
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.
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.
Stokes, Susan C. (2007). “Political Clientelism.” In Susan C. Stokes and Carles Boix, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ali Daud Ul Rehman, Assistant Editor, Pakistan Journal of Historical Studies (PJHS).