Published/ Forthcoming/ In Progress

Clientelism from the Client’s Perspective: A Meta-Analysis of Ethnographic Literature, published in Perspectives on Politics 28 Dec 2020 (co-authored by Miquel Pellicer, Eva Wegner, Markus Bayer, and Christian Tischmeyer)

This paper bridges the gap between mainstream political science and ethnographic literatures on clientelism by conducting a meta-analysis of ethnographic literature on clientelism from the client perspective. We code characteristics of clientelistic exchanges described in this work. We use cluster analysis and principal component analysis to systematize these data. Cluster analysis groups exchanges into three core subtypes of clientelism (“vote-buying”, “relational”, and “collective”); principal component analysis delivers two fundamental dimensions of clientelism: equal-unequal and individual-universal. We show that the two dimensions are associated with different aspects of client welfare and trade-offs from the client perspective. Our results reaffirm and reconcile existing deductive typologies of clientelism and can serve as a basis for a structured study of the demand side of clientelism.

Keywords: Clientelism, typology, client welfare, political ethnography, meta-analysis

Location of clientelistic exchanges on the equal-unequal and individual-universal dimensions

Poor People’s Beliefs and the Dynamics of ClientelismJournal of Theoretical Politics, published online 13 April 2021, co-authored by Miquel Pellicer, Eva Wegner, Lindsay Benstead and Ellen Lust.

Why do some poor people engage in clientelism while others do not? Why does clientelism sometimes take traditional forms and sometimes more instrumental forms? We propose a formal model of clientelism that addresses these questions
focusing primarily on the citizen’s perspective. Citizens choose between supporting broad-based redistribution or engaging in clientelism. Introducing insights from social psychology, we study the interactions between citizen beliefs and values, and their political choices. Clientelism, political inefficacy and inequality legitimation beliefs reinforce each other leading to multiple equilibria. One of these resembles traditional clientelism, with disempowered clients that legitimize social inequalities. Community connectivity breaks this reinforcement mechanism and leads to another equilibrium where clientelism takes a modern, instrumental, form. The model delivers insights on the role of citizen beliefs for their bargaining power as well as for the persistence and transformation of clientelism. We illustrate the key
mechanisms with ethnographic literature on the topic

Keywords: Clientelism, social psychology, efficacy, inequality

Philosophy of Science Issues in Clientelism Research forthcoming in Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Political Science (co-authored by Harold Kincaid, Miquel Pellicer, and Eva Wegner.

Clientelism concerns the distribution of resources from politicians to voters in exchange for political support. It is a widespread phenomenon globally and generally thought to be a serious obstacle to full democracy. This chapter uses some current ideas from philosophy of science about the place of definitions, theories, mechanisms, holism of testing and contextual elements in explanation to address the successes and areas for improvement in the now burgeoning political science research on clientelism.  We document the plurality of definitions of clientelism and show that they generally do not fit the traditional necessary and sufficient conditions notion of definitions. We argue that a plurality of definitions, definitions which are often informal in nature, is not necessarily a problem if research is cognizant of how it picks out clientelistic phenomena and does so in empirically fruitful ways. To advance a shared understanding of the phenomenon we propose a definition of clientelism based on three necessary conditions: inequality between patron and client, implicit conditionality, and exchange of resources for political support. We discuss explanatory frameworks by looking at, first, the general questions about clientelism that are being asked, second, the broad type and system of causes and the specific proposed causal factors that instantiate them, and third questions about evidence raised by alternative possible explanations.


Political clientelism is a linkage between a political actor (the patron) and one or more citizens (the clients) that has three essential components. First, the patron provides some type of resource and the client provides political support. Second, there is mutual agreement that the main rationale for the exchange is its conditionality. Third, the patron is more powerful than the client(s).

Court Performance and Citizen Attitudes Towards Fighting Corruption, published online in Governance, co-authored by Leticia Barbabela, Miquel Pellicer, and Eva Wegner

Work in Progress

Citizen Assessments of Clientelistic Practices in South Africa, revise and resubmit, co-authored by Miquel Pellicer, Eva Wegner, Markus Bayer, and Christian Tischmeyer

What is bad about clientelism? Citizen perceptions in poor communities in South Africa and Tunisia, under review, co-authored by Miquel Pellicer and Eva Wegner

Clientelism, Information Processing, and Accountability, co-authored by Miquel Pellicer and Eva Wegner

Citizen Demand for Different Types of Clientelism, co-authored by Miquel Pellicer and Eva Wegner