Unpacking Patronage: The Politics of Patronage Appointments in Argentina’s and Uruguay’s Central Public Administrations

Francisco Panizza, Conrado Ricardo Ramos Larraburu, Gerardo Scherlis


This study makes the following contributions to the study of the politics of patronage appointments in Latin America: Conceptually it adopts Kopecký, Scherlis, and Spirova’s (2008) distinction between clientelistic and nonclientelistic types of patronage politics and widens these authors classification of patrons’ motivations for making appointments, specifically as a lens for the study of patronage practices within Latin America’s presidentialist regimes. Analytically, it sets up a new taxonomy of patronage appointments based on the roles that appointees’ play vis-à-vis the executive, the ruling party, and the public administration – one that can be used for the comparative study of the politics of patronage. Empirically, it applies this taxonomy to a pilot study of the politics of patronage in Argentina and Uruguay under two left-of-center administrations. Theoretically, it contributes to theory-building by relating the findings of our research to the differences in party systems and presidential powers within the two countries under study, and to agency factors associated with the respective governments’ own political projects. The article concludes that differences in patronage practices are a manifestation of two variant forms of exercising governmental power: a hyper-presidentialist, populist one in Argentina and a party-centered, social-democratic one in Uruguay.

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