The Practical Logic of Political Domination: Conceptualizing the Clientelist Habitus

Javier Auyero, Claudio Benzecry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This article aims to redirect the study of patronage politics toward its quotidian character and acknowledge the key role played by brokers' strong ties with their closest followers to better understand and explain the practical features of clientelist domination. This article argues that clientelist politics occur during routine daily life and that most loyal clients' behavior should be understood and explained neither as the product of rational action nor the outcome of normative behavior but as generated by a clientelist habitus, a set of cognitive and affective political dispositions manufactured in the repeated interactions that take place within brokers' inner circles of followers. The article also has as a secondary objective to contribute to dispositional sociology through the conceptualization of the clientelist habitus. It does so by showing the active work agents engage in as they prevent disjunctures provoked by what Bourdieu calls the "hysteresis effect."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-199
Number of pages21
JournalSociological Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • clientelism
  • dispositions
  • ethnography
  • political sociology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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