Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Adam Auerbach ─ Cultivating Clients: Reputation, Responsiveness, and Ethnic Indifference in India's Slums

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street

Studies of clientelism overwhelmingly focus on how brokers target voters with top‐down benefits during elections. Yet brokers also receive requests from voters for assistance between elections, initiating the processes through which they cultivate clients. Why are brokers responsive to the requests of some voters and not others? We provide the first study of broker preferences when evaluating client appeals. Theories emphasizing brokers as vote monitors anticipate they will prefer co‐partisans and coethnics, whose reciprocity they can best verify. Theories emphasizing brokers as vote mobilizers anticipate they will prefer residents who will maximize their reputations for efficacy. We test these expectations through a conjoint experiment with 629 Indian slum leaders, ethnographic fieldwork, and a survey of 2,199 slum residents. We find evidence of reputational considerations shaping broker responsiveness. We find mixed support for monitoring concerns, highlighted by an absence of the strong ethnic favoritism assumed to dominate distributive politics in many developing countries.

Development and Governance Seminar

Adam Auerbach is an assistant professor at the School of International Service at American University. His research and teaching focus on local governance, urban politics, and the political economy of development, with a regional focus on South Asia and India in particular. His forthcoming book, Demanding Development: The Politics of Public Goods Provision in India's Urban Slums (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series), accounts for the uneven success of India's slum residents in demanding and securing essential public services from the state. The project draws on more than two years of fieldwork in the north Indian cities of Jaipur, Rajasthan and Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.