Partisan Activism and Access to Welfare in Lebanon



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.


Social welfare Non-state welfare Political behavior Sectarianism Lebanon 



I thank Jennifer Lawless, Ellen Lust, Lauren Morris Maclean, Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, two anonymous reviewers and, especially, Dan Corstange and Yen-Ting Chen for valuable feedback on drafts of this paper. Earlier versions were presented at the Middle East Studies Association 2009 annual meeting and the Seminar on Democracy and Development at Princeton University in April 2010. All errors are my own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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