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Votes for Survival
Relational Clientelism in Latin America


Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: March 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108428361

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About the Authors
  • Across the world, many politicians deliver benefits to citizens in direct exchange for their votes. Scholars often predict the demise of this phenomenon, as it is threatened by economic development, ballot secrecy and other daunting challenges. To explain its resilience, this book shifts attention to the demand side of exchanges. Nichter contends that citizens play a crucial but underappreciated role in the survival of relational clientelism - ongoing exchange relationships that extend beyond election campaigns. Citizens often undertake key actions, including declared support and requesting benefits, to sustain these relationships. As most of the world's population remains vulnerable to adverse shocks, citizens often depend on such relationships when the state fails to provide an adequate social safety net. Nichter demonstrates the critical role of citizens with fieldwork and original surveys in Brazil, as well as with comparative evidence from Argentina, Mexico and other continents.

    • Explores how citizens often depend on clientelist relationships to cope with their vulnerability to adverse shocks such as unemployment, illness and drought in contexts with inadequate welfare states
    • Emphasizes how citizens often rely on exchange relationships with politicians to cope with their vulnerability, spurring them to sustain clientelism
    • Investigates patterns of clientelism during non-election periods, rather than the dominant focus on campaign strategies, such as vote buying and other episodic forms of clientelism, emphasizing the important role of ongoing exchange relationships
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Based on extraordinary quantitative and qualitative research, Votes for Survival helps us understand why clientelism persists and how it has evolved. Whereas most studies focus narrowly on vote buying, Nichter shows that relational clientelism has proven especially robust. The book also teaches us that contemporary clients are not the passive and oft-manipulated objects that many studies depict them to be. Economically vulnerable despite rising incomes, voters play a major role in perpetuating clientelism. Many books have been written about clientelism in Latin America. This one is the best I have read.' Steve Levitsky, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Nichter breaks new ground in the analysis of clientelism by focusing on the micrologics that drive durable exchange relations. His work highlights the demand side of clients' deliberate choices. Meticulous qualitative and quantitative research on Brazil demonstrates empirical payoffs. Nichter also demonstrates with empirical examples from different continents the potential for generalizability. A must-read for anyone studying citizen-politician linkage relations.' Herbert Kitschelt, Duke University, North Carolina

    'Despite decades of studies, we know little about how clientelist systems sustain themselves in a time of rising incomes and institutional reforms. This marvelous book will change that. Treating clientelism as an exchange that repeats itself over time, it draws our attention to why citizens demand benefits, and how they signal support to and secure credible commitments from politicians. Few books change the way we think about major themes in comparative politics. This will be one.' Frances Hagopian, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'An outstanding piece of scholarship, Nichter's book focuses attention on the demand side of clientelism. This rich and illuminating book should be read by all those interested in distributive politics in the developing world.' Thad Dunning, University of California, Berkeley

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108428361
    • length: 324 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 160 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. Electoral Clientelism:
    2. Challenges for electoral clientelism
    Part II. Relational Clientelism:
    3. Citizens and relational clientelism
    4. Income and vulnerability
    5. Declared support
    6. Requesting benefits
    Part III. Extensions:
    7. Citizen strategies in comparative context
    8. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Simeon Nichter, University of California, San Diego
    Simeon Nichter is Assistant Professor at the University of California, San Diego. He has published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, Electoral Studies, Review of Economics and Statistics, and World Development. Previously, he served as Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Global Development. He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.P.A. in International Development from Harvard Kennedy School.

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