Patronage, trust, and state capacity: The historical trajectories of clientelism

Lenka Bustikova-Siroky, Cristina Corduneanu-Huci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


What explains different levels of clientelism across countries? Why do some politicians deliver clientelistic goods to their electoral constituencies, and why do some voters demand them? This article focuses on the historical origins of trust in states and shows that they have a lasting impact on contemporary patterns of patronage. The shift to programmatic politics reflects a historical transition from personalized trust in politicians to trust in impersonal bureaucracies tasked by political parties to implement policy. Past experience with public bureaucracy informs the expectations of voters and parties regarding the performance of the state and its ability to provide public goods, which in turn shape the degree of clientelistic exchange across societies. To capture state capacity, the authors focus on the critical juncture before the expansion of women's suffrage, and use the ability of public bureaucracies to reduce infant mortality in the interwar period as a proxy for historical state capacity and as an instrument to predict trust. Macrodata from eightyeight electoral democracies and microdata from the most recent wave of the World Value Survey provide supportive evidence for the theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-326
Number of pages50
JournalWorld Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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