Linkages between citizens and politicians in democratic polities
Research on democratic party competition in the formal spatial tradition of Downs and the comparative-historical tradition of Lipset and Rokkan assumes that linkages of accountability and responsiveness between voters and political elites work through politicians' programmatic appeals and policy achievements. This ignores, however, alternative voter-elite linkages through the personal charisma of political leaders and, more important, selective material incentives in networks of direct exchange (clientelism). In light of the diversity of linkage mechanisms appearing in new democracies and changing linkages in established democracies, this article explores theories of linkage choice. It first develops conceptual definitions of charismatic, clientelist, and programmatic linkages between politicians and electoral constituencies. It then asks whether politicians face a trade-off or mutual reinforcement in employing linkage mechanisms. The core section of the article details developmentalist, statist, institutional, political-economic, and cultural-ideological theories of citizen-elite linkage formation in democracies, showing that none of the theories is fully encompassing. The final section considers empirical measurement problems in comparative research on linkage.
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