Partisan Activism and Access to Welfare in Lebanon
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- Cammett, M.C. St Comp Int Dev (2011) 46: 70. doi:10.1007/s12116-010-9081-9
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How do welfare regimes function when state institutions are weak and ethnic or sectarian groups control access to basic services? This paper explores how people gain access to basic services in Lebanon, where sectarian political parties from all major religious communities are key providers of social assistance and services. Based on analyses of an original national survey (n = 1,911) as well as in-depth interviews with providers and other elites (n = 175) and beneficiaries of social programs (n = 135), I make two main empirical claims in the paper. First, political activism and a demonstrated commitment to a party are associated with access to social assistance; and second, higher levels of political activism may facilitate access to higher levels or quantities of aid, including food baskets and financial assistance for medical and educational costs. These arguments highlight how politics can mediate access to social assistance in direct ways and add new dimensions to scholarly debates about clientelism by focusing on contexts with politicized religious identities and by problematizing the actual goods and services exchanged.