Neopatrimonial Political Order: A Hybrid Form of Governance

The peacebuilding literature focuses for the most part on the implementation of peace operations and the extent to which they achieve their goals. Most such studies assess the durability of a peace operation’s performance by examining outcomes after the end of the mandate - but even the most sophisticated of these studies use a relatively short timeframe for assessment, for at least three reasons.[1] First, a short-term perspective is due to the recent nature of such interventions; not enough time has elapsed across a large enough sample of cases to go much further. Second, this type of study reflects the scholarly perception of an international intervention as an exogenously imposed treatment, the effect of which can be fruitfully assessed through crosssectional analysis. Third, it also reflects the relatively broad consensus that international peacebuilding seeks uncontested objectives; thus a reasonable topic of study is the extent to which the effective and legitimate governance of the modern state has indeed been met in postconflict states subject to interventions.

This book aims to add a new perspective to the peacebuilding scholarship by emphasizing that international interventions represent and seek to establish one particular conception of political order. Domestic elites in post-conflict states, by contrast, seek to establish a very different form of political order. It is necessary, therefore, to examine the dynamic contest between these two visions over time - and, especially, as long into the aftermath of interventions as possible. Doing so makes it apparent that post-conflict political order is typically neopatrimonial in nature. The analytical stance here is in line with new scholarship in the political economy of development that emphasizes that neopatri- monialism should be understood as a core element in explaining how states function, not simply advanced as a reason for their failure.[2] Clan-based and other forms of patrimonial governance, along with the “competitive authoritarianism” they regularly exhibit, coexist with more rational-legal and democratic systems of governance, often for long periods of time.[3] It is crucial to understand these hybrid political orders as resting in an equilibrium of their own, which is not simply a deviation from the pathway to modern political order.[4]

Poor governance and economic outcomes in the developing world are not a result of inept leaders, nor of international organizations dispensing faulty advice. Political and economic institutions are the way they are because elites have an interest in structuring them that way; over time, those institutions replicate and perpetuate the power struggles of the past. Acemoglu and Robinson observe, for example, that there is a mutually reinforcing synergy between economic and political institutions.[5] Typically, inclusive economic institutions - featuring secure property rights, the unbiased rule of law, and equitable public service provision - create a more equitable basis for political power; in turn, inclusive political institutions, rooted in pluralism, ensure continued economic inclusion. Similarly, extractive political institutions that favor the political elite allow them to write the economic rules to benefit themselves at the expense of broader society; in turn, the extractive economic institutions that are structured to privilege powerful elite interests entrenches their future extractive potential and thus political dominance. Crucially, however, there is sometimes a mismatch between economic and political orders and these are typically unstable equilibria. Of particular note here is the negative spiral that can unfold. An extractive economic order can, over time, effect changes to an inclusive political system so that the political balance also becomes more extractive. In turn, the narrow interests that gain a concentrated hold on political order will gradually transform economic institutions into more extractive ones that more narrowly benefit and empower themselves.

A rich vein of contemporary scholarship takes as a starting point the insight that a better understanding of patronage and clientelism is crucial to better understanding stunted democratic consolidation across the developing world.[6] Programmatic and unbiased delivery of public goods and services to the population is a hallmark of a well-functioning democracy. By contrast, pervasive clientelism is both a cause and effect of a lack of democratic consolidation. In this book, I rely on Scott’s seminal definition of patronage or clientelism as the logic of instrumental exchange - biased distribution of public goods and services from patrons to clients in exchange for votes and other forms of political support from clients to patrons.[7] Similarly, Stokes et al. have more recently defined clientelism as nonprogrammatic distribution of public resources in conditional exchange for political support.[8]

Neopatrimonial political orders in Cambodia, East Timor, and Afghanistan, as in other developing and post-conflict countries, encompass both the patron-client relationship between elites and their immediate networks, typically referred to as patronage, and the less personalized and yet still instrumental exchange of goods and favors for broad political support, commonly labeled clientelism. In describing post-conflict political orders as neopatrimonial - hybrid systems where both patrimonial and rational-legal elements of governance coexist - I use the terms patronage and clientelism interchangeably.[9] In postconflict states, the concern is not electoral clientelism per se but, more broadly, relational clientelism, which constitutes a broader set of distributional strategies that deliver ongoing benefits to clients.[10] This broader form of political clientelism is essential in the democratizing developing world as a means through which to achieve inter-elite accommodation and compromise, more so than to bind the population to different elite patrons. In other words, state and public resources are used to forge and cement alliances among different groups of elites, instead of serving the logic of mass party patronage.[11]

This book emphasizes the clientelism and patronage associated with the building of post-conflict political order, focusing especially on the ability of elites to make credible commitments to each other and to the populace. This commands attention, in turn, to how political and administrative institutions shape time horizons and elite incentives; and to how the elites who control the state deliver the patronage goods and benefits that underpin their neopatrimonial compact with society. The liberal ideal embedded in the UN’s peacebuilding model is that democratically elected elites will interpret social preferences and will use the state apparatus to deliver the programmatic policies, collective public services, and shared prosperity that serve as pillars of sustainable peace. The post-conflict reality, however - as illustrated in the empirical chapters that follow - is that the political-economic incentives facing elites are such that it is easier and more profitable for them to focus, for the most part, on distributing narrowly targeted public rents and particularist patronage goods to their clients in exchange for political support.[12]

The relative weakness of party organization in post-conflict and other developing countries, moreover, makes clientelism even more appealing as a strategy for gaining political support.[13] In particular, while outsider parties with no access to state resources will attempt to make more programmatic appeals as their only viable strategy, incumbent parties with access to state resources will be more likely to mobilize those material resources in clientelist appeals for support.75 At the same time, incumbents can continue to consolidate power by altering social discourse and by using targeted policies to reshape social preferences.76 In furthering all such practices, elites find that they are able to channel their appeal to citizens through hierarchical patron- client networks, thus obviating their own need to build credibility with the populace - through, for example, institutionalized political parties - and undermining the formal structures of authority.[14] This equilibrium not only privileges elites and their networks over society at large; it also has adverse consequences for peace because underlying it is a new form of persistent insecurity.[15]

Elite factions in limited access orders curb violence by structuring the creation, extraction, and distribution of rents; they also structure violence itself, serving as the main fault lines of conflict in patrimonial societies.[16] Most of what I have said about violence to this point has been implicit. The fact of violence - including coercive threats of violence - is, of course, central to theories of political order.[17] The logic is simple: those who have access to violence will use it to extract what they can from the rest of the population, unless they are constrained in some way - through a pact with others who have access to violence or because the costs of using it outweigh the benefits of using it. A modern, rational-legal political order limits violence through institutions, including both formal measures and informal norms. Yet Kalyvas, Shapiro, and Masoud observe, “ ... much of what we identify as order is simply violence in disguise. Political institutions are often erected on violent foundations, and maintained through implicit and explicit threats of bloodshed should obedience be withheld.”[18] It should not surprise us that post-conflict orders rest on a delicate knife- edge balancing a certain degree of order with the ever-present specter of violence.

A suboptimal political economy equilibrium of the sort I have described here may be relatively common to new democracies suffering from weak credibility. Yet transformational peacebuilding purports to build legitimate and effective governance - and this book demonstrates that it fails to do so because domestic elites succeed instead at using the resources of international interventions to aid them in establishing a neopatrimonial political order. This neopatri- monialism has proven obstinate in the face of attempts to impose the rule-bound, effective, and legitimate governance of the modern state. The post-conflict regimes under study here are neopatrimonial before the outbreak of conflict; they retain some elements of neopatrimoni- alism during the political disorder that characterizes conflict; and, in the end, even after experiencing a peacebuilding intervention designed explicitly to shape a different political order, they return to neopatri- monialism.

  • [1] For example, Doyle and Sambanis 2006 focus on outcomes two years after thetermination of conflict while Zurcher et al. 2013 assess outcomes five yearsafter the start of a peace mission.
  • [2] Smith 2014 elaborates this point in the case of conflict-affected countries thathave found their own pathways to peace without international interventions.
  • [3] On competitive authoritarianism, see Levitsky and Way 2002.
  • [4] Boege, Brown, and Clements 2009.
  • [5] Acemoglu and Robinson 2012. The discussion of inclusive and extractiveinstitutions rests on their work.
  • [6] See, especially, Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007; and Stokes et al. 2013.
  • [7] Scott 1972. 3 Stokes et al. 2013: 18.
  • [8] 70 Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007 also use the terms interchangeably. Cf. Stokes et al. 2013, who distinguish patronage as the subset of clientelist practices
  • [9] targeted at party members.
  • [10] Gans-Morse, Mazzuca, and Nichter 2014.
  • [11] Van de Walle 2007: 55; also Slater 2010.
  • [12] Joshi and Mason 2011; and Keefer and Vlaicu 2008. 4 Reilly 2013.
  • [13] 75 O’Dwyer 2006; and Shefter 1977, 1994. 76 Pierson 2015.
  • [14] Keefer and Vlaicu 2008; Olson 1993; and Scott 19 72 . 2 Barma 2012a.
  • [15] 79 North, Wallis, and Weingast 2009: 36.
  • [16] 80 Weber defined violence as the essential feature distinguishing the political from
  • [17] the social, economic, and cultural. As noted in Bates 2008b.
  • [18] Kalyvas, Shapiro, and Masoud 2008: 1, fn. 1.
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