Student presentation: Christian Schuster

When the Victor Cannot Claim Most Spoils: Patronage Control and Bureaucratic Professionalization in Latin America

Date: 7 March 2014 (week 8)

The decline of clientelism and its underlying causes have become a focal point of scholarly works. Special attention has been paid to one clientelist benefit in particular: public employment, or patronage as it is often referred to. Statistical studies have linked the professionalization of patronage bureaucracies to development outcomes such as economic growth and lower corruption. Yet, scholarly works remain marred by dissent about the political conditions which could incentivize such reforms.

This paper argues that this dissent stems in part from a common, but unwarranted assumption: patronage bureaucracies are homogenous in the private goods benefits they provide to incumbents. Instead, such benefits may vary: who controls recruitment, promotion, pay and dismissal, for instance, may be differentially distributed across cases. As a result, the electoral utility of patronage bureaucracies to incumbents may differ.

Based on this insight, a new theory of reform is posited: incumbent presidents face greater reform incentives where their control over patronage is more limited. The theory and its causal mechanisms are tested via a comparative case study of recent reforms in Paraguay and the Dominican Republic.

Drawing on 130 interviews with high-level policy makers and non-state actors, the paper finds that differential patronage control contributed to variation in reform outcomes. Professionalization advanced in Paraguay’s quasi-parliamentarian system – yet not the Dominican Republic’s hyper-presidentialist system – in part as Paraguay’s President lacked control over most patronage. These findings point, more generally, to the importance of considering institutional structures as causes of clientelism – rather than only as consequences as prevalent in the literature to-date.