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Revista mexicana de ciencias políticas y sociales

Print version ISSN 0185-1918


ORTIZ DE ROZAS, Victoria. Clientelism or Political Representation? The “Program” of Political Intermediaries. Insights From Argentina. Rev. mex. cienc. polít. soc [online]. 2017, vol.62, n.229, pp.263-296. ISSN 0185-1918.

The article aims at examining and questioning the notion of “clientelism” in its instrumental sense, based on an empirical study of the activities of political mediators in a northern Argentinian province. The daily doings of local leaders in various elective positions is studied with a qualitative methodological approach. The work reveals that the role of mediators involves not only individuals and particular groups, but also social and territorial groups who are the target of the distribution of public goods yielding collective gains. It is argued that the choice of the beneficiaries of the goods is hardly ever consistent with a simple cost-benefit assessment entailed by the instrumental notion of clientelism, as it rather implies rebuilding and solving the specific problems of the electoral basis’ members. The method of allocating resources is filtered by the mediator, who assigns them according to her/his knowledge of the represented territory and general policy orientations. The dualism between clientelistic and programmatic links is thus questioned, showing that the distribution of public goods by political mediators is always guided by symbolic and/or programmatic criteria. Thus, the author suggests a re-conceptualization of the notion of clientelism that accounts for the political representation dimension involved in this notion.

Keywords : clientelism; political representation; political intermediaries; Argentina.

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