My new co-authored article on patronage


David K. Leonard, Jennifer N. Brass, Michael Nelson, Sophal Ear, Dan Fahey, Tasha Fairfield, Martha Johnson Gning, Michael Halderman, Brendan McSherry, Devra C. Moehler, Wilson Prichard, Robin Turner, Tuong Vu, Jeroen Dijkman. 2010. “Does Patronage Still Drive Politics for the Rural Poor in the Developing World? A Comparative Perspective from the Livestock Sector.” Development and Change. (p 475-494)

If one didn’t know any better, one might think that we were trying to set a record for the number of co-authors on a social science journal article. Indeed, the question of author order has come up recently in our discipline. David Lake has suggested we list people in order of their contribution, and I would have to agree that this is the fairest way to go. And when in doubt, listing alphabetically isn’t a bad backup plan. Essentially, this is what happened with our article, though I would suggest that David’s name deserves even greater recognition than simply being listed first.

I am actually very excited to see that co-authorship is on the rise. Fisher et al. noticed this back in 1998 and Lee Sigelman has updated this analysis more recently. I think this is a signal that we are really progressing in our discipline, which is not to say that collaboration is always a good thing. But when done well, it can be rewarding.

For those of you interested in what our article was actually about, here is the abstract:

Is the analysis of patron–client networks still important to the understanding of developing country politics or has it now been overtaken by a focus on ‘social capital’? Drawing on seventeen country studies of the political environment for livestock policy in poor countries, this article concludes that although the nature of patronage has changed significantly, it remains highly relevant to the ways peasant interests are treated. Peasant populations were found either to have no clear connection to their political leaders or to be controlled by political clientage. Furthermore, communities ‘free’ of patron–client ties to the centre generally are not better represented by political associations but instead receive fewer benefits from the state. Nonetheless, patterns of clientage are different from what they were forty years ago. First, patronage chains today often have a global reach, through trade, bilateral donor governments and international NGOs. Second, the resources that fuel political clientage today are less monopolistic and less adequate to the task of purchasing peasant political loyalty. Thus the bonds of patronage are less tight than they were historically. Third, it follows from the preceding point and the greater diversity of patrons operating today that elite conflicts are much more likely to create spaces in which peasant interests can eventually be aggregated into autonomous associations with independent political significance in the national polity. NGOs are playing an important role in opening up this political space although at the moment, they most often act like a new type of patron.

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