The Political Economy of Clientelism: A Comparative Study of Indonesia’s Patronage Democracy – Berenschot (2018)


This article aims to develop an alternative perspective on the relationship between clientelistic politics and economic development by exploring election campaigns and the importance of societal constraints in rural and provincial capitals in Indonesia. Berenschot highlights that the majority of the literature that analyses the relationship between economic development and clientelistic politics typically only focuses on one aspect of clientelism: vote buying.  Conventional analysis therefore assumes that clientelism declines along with declining poverty rates and a growing middle class. This article attempts to offer an alternative perspective about the relationship between economic development and clientelistic politics. It employs ethnographic fieldwork and surveys to shows that clientelism in Indonesia is less intense in rural areas compared to relatively wealthy, yet state-dependent, provincial capitals. He demonstrates that a diffusion of economic power can restrict clientelist politics as this dispersion can generate a more autonomous civil society that will hold the government to account for its legitimacy.