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Mobilizing for Elections: Patronage and Political Machines in Southeast Asia, Edward Aspinall, Meredith L. Weiss, Allen Hicken and Paul D. Hutchcroft

Reviewed by Mariela Daby
 

Saying something new—let alone creative and thoughtful—in a crowded field is difficult. Mobilizing for Elections provides a new framework to study and understand distributive politics by focusing on patronage and clientelism. Studying in detail patronage and clientelistic networks in three countries in Southeast Asia, Aspinall, Weiss, Hicken, and Hutchcroft build a new theory and provide novel findings to the field. By focusing their study on the same region where the literature began with patron-client relations over fifty years ago, they provide an insightful and novel understanding of how to think about clientelism and patronage today.

In their theory-building effort, the authors untangle patronage from clientelism to achieve analytical precision. Defining patronage as “a material resource, disbursed for particularistic benefit for political purposes and generally (but not always) derived from public sources” (6) and clientelism as a “personalistic relationship of power” (7), the authors enable scholars in the field to make sense of similar observations and findings documented in the field. The reconceptualization proposed by the authors is one of the most insightful contributions of the book: “patronage, as an adjective, modifies resources and flows, and clientelistic, as an adjective, modifies relationship

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