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Clientelism: An Interview with Gabriel Vommaro

12 0 25
06.08.2017

B.M Bresnahan catches up with sociologist Gabriel Vommaro to discuss clientelism in the 21st century, and also the rise of Mauricio Macri, a year after PRO took power.

Gabriel Vommaro (photo by Laura Pasotti)

In their recently released academic study entitled ‘El Clientelismo Político’, Gabriel Vommaro and his co-author Héléne Combes present the reader with a view of modern day clientelism. Looking to combat what they believe to be the commonly accepted and erroneously held opinions of the social sciences, the co-authors engage in a compelling and global comparative analysis. With their comprehensive review of Argentina, France, and Japan (among other countries), the co-authors demonstrate that clientelism goes far beyond the notion of a populist-driven Latin American phenomenon, and they succeed in highlighting the interpersonal, mutually beneficial, and socially driven doctrine that is clientelism.

Vommaro is also the author of ‘Mundo PRO’, an in-depth analysis of the rise of President Mauricio Macri’s party.

The Indy recently caught up with Vommaro in a quaint Chacarita cafe to discuss clientelism, his new book, and the general state of Argentine politics as the current government completes a year in power.

Looking at Latin America, there are many historians and specialists of note, Edwin Williamson in particular, who attribute the current existence of clientelism to the Spanish colonisation, and the long history of regional caudillismo that Latin America inherited. How does this historical perspective relate to the modern view of the social sciences?

In any case, I would tell you that our book tries to look at the “clientelism” question within a worldwide framework. There are chapters on European cases, Italy and France, and there are other Latin American cases, such as Argentina and Mexico. There is another case on the United States, on the old electoral machines, and there is another part focusing on the electoral machines in Japan. There is also a brief glance at the political work of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. So, as you can see, we tried to make a fairly broad bibliographic balance.

The interesting thing here is that our review of various countries around the world forced us to have an unbiased look at the Latin American cases, because, as you say, there is a current of historical thought which says:

“Ok the colonised countries of Spain have a colonial inheritance associated with caudillismo.”

While it is true that the Spanish colonial legacy left its imprint on Creole politics, especially during independence, and that it is deeply rooted within the political culture of Latin America, I believe that such descriptions prevent us from understanding why in Japan, for example, the machines of clientelism developed at the same time and within a completely distinct political system. Why, in cultures as diverse as the United States, or in countries that are very different from Latin America and Spain, do we find the same bonds and developmental impact of clientelism?........

© Argentina Independent