Buying support without brokers : conditional cash transfers in Turkey and Argentina



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This master’s report examines how the implementation of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, which allocate benefits according to objective poverty criteria, affect entrenched patterns of clientelism, that is, the long-established provision of social benefits for political-electoral purposes. By analyzing two “most different” cases, Turkey and Argentina, the thesis probes the explanatory power of three major approaches in political science. Culturalism predicts that the traditional values underlying clientelism will corrode CCT implementation and lead to the distribution of the new benefits as political favors. Constructivism, by contrast, expects the modern, advanced principles embodied in CCTs sooner or later to create pressures for the transformation of traditional social programs and the abandonment of clientelism. But my extensive field research shows that neither of these approaches is convincing. Instead, non-clientelistic CCTs and traditional clientelistic programs exist side by side. This finding provides support for a rational-choice institutionalist approach that highlights the political-electoral incentives for politicians to target some constituencies with traditional clientelistic programs while appealing to others with modern, non-clientelistic CCTs. Moreover, poorer voters have incentives to obtain benefits in whatever way they are offered, entering into traditional exchange relationships to obtain clientelistic benefits while simultaneously complying with the objective criteria and conditions for receiving CCTs.