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Democracy has provided opportunities for political representation and accountability, but it has also created incentives for creating and maintaining clientelistic networks. Why has clientelism consolidated with the introduction of democracy? Drawing on network analysis, Mobilizing Poor Voters answers this question by describing and explaining the emergence, maintenance, and disappearance of political, partisan, and social networks in Argentina. Combining qualitative and quantitative data gathered during twenty-four months of field research in eight municipalities in Argentina, Mobilizing Poor Voters shows that when party leaders distribute political promotions to party candidates based only on the number of voters they mobilize, party leaders incentivize the use of clientelistic strategies among candidates competing to mobilize voters in poor neighborhoods. The logic of perverse incentives examined in this book explains why candidates who use clientelism succeed in getting elected and re-elected over time, contributing to the consolidation of political machines at the local level.

This innovative book shows the value of careful multi-method research for our understanding of the micro-foundations of clientelism and its pervasive power in new democracies. Relying on impressive fieldwork as well as surveys, Mobilizing Poor Voters illuminates the different preferences of political brokers, which had been previously ignored by the literature, while also explaining the incentives that make brokers relying on clientelistic distribution more electorally successful. This second effect is crucial for understanding the predominance of clientelistic electoral strategies to mobilize poor voters. This well-crafted and insightful book will surely become a must-read for the study of clientelism and electoral mobilization in new democracies.
— Maria Victoria Murillo, Professor, Columbia University
Despite flourishing research on network analyses, most of the literature takes individuals (nodes) for granted and relationships (vertices) as unproblematic. In most network analyses, a node is a node is a node. This is definitely not the case in this wonderful book by Mariela Szwarcberg, which uses extensive ethnographic research to describe the making of clientelistic individuals and relationships. This is an original and rich theory of clientelistic mobilization through network building.
— Ernesto Calvo - Associate Chair of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
In this excellent book, Mariela Szwarcberg draws on extensive ethnographic research to bring the reader the most sensitive, nuanced portrayal of how clientelism works on the ground

”It is not an exaggeration to say that Mobilizing Poor Voters is a page turner, a rare accomplishment for any work of social science
— Rebecca Weitz Shapiro, Associate Professor, Brown University
It is not easy to read something new about clientelism, let alone something new about clientelism in Argentina–a country that has been extensively studied by distributive politics scholars. However, Mariela Szwarcberg’s wonderful book sheds new light on this crowded field”

“All in all, Mobilizing Poor Voters offers new insights to a hotly debated field while showing the value of careful and dedicated field research”

“The book, in short, is a must-read for anyone interested in electoral mobilization and clientelism, as well as for anyone interested in learning how rigorous ethnography should be executed
— Virginia Oliveros, Assistant Professor, Tulane University