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Patronage as Politics in South Asia


John Dunn, Anastasia Piliavsky, Mattison Mines, D. Seyfort Ruegg, Diane Mines, Sumit Guha, David Gilmartin, Lisa Björkman, Ward Berenschot, Pamela Price, Dusi Srinivas, Beatrice Jauregui, Steven I. Wilkinson, Lucia Michelutti, Arild Engelsen Ruud, Nicolas Martin, Hildegard Diemberger, Filippo Osella
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  • Date Published: October 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107056084

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About the Authors
  • Western policymakers, political activists and academics alike see patronage as the chief enemy of open, democratic societies. Patronage, for them, is a corrupting force, a hallmark of failed and failing states, and the obverse of everything that good, modern governance ought to be. South Asia poses a frontal challenge for this consensus. Here the world's most populous, pluralist and animated democracy is also a hotbed of corruption with persistently startling levels of inequality. Patronage as Politics in South Asia confronts this paradox with calm erudition: sixteen essays by anthropologists, historians and political scientists show, from a wide range of cultural and historical angles, that in South Asia patronage is no feudal residue or retrograde political pressure, but a political form vital in its own right. This volume suggests that patronage is no foe to South Asia's burgeoning democratic cultures, but may in fact be their main driving force.

    • Provides in-depth ethnographic and historical studies of popular political life across South Asia
    • Contains contributions by anthropologists, historians and political scientists
    • Offers a new vision of democracy in South Asia and beyond
    • An extensive introduction offers a radically new vision of patronage, corruption and democracy in South Asia in a global comparative perspective
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'By insisting that what we call 'patronage' is above all a moral idiom, and by rejecting arguments that would prefer to confine patronage to the theoretical dustbin referred to as 'tradition', this brilliant volume will transform the study of South Asian politics. It combines a stellar assembly of researchers and imaginatively analysed case studies, and will provoke exciting debates about the past, present and future of democracy - both in South Asia itself, and far beyond.' Jonathan Spencer, University of Edinburgh

    'It is remarkable how much the historical course in India is guided rather by institutional memories and their persisting structural paradigms. Testifying to this reproduction of the past in modern political garb, essay after essay of this fine work offers a nuanced, anthropological sense of how cultural order is revealed by historical change, even as the change manifests a historical order.' Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Chicago

    'Even those of us who see the importance of patronage waning will find an abundance of crucial insights in these subtle, deeply learned analyses.' James Manor, Emeka Anyaoku Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London

    'This excellent book demonstrates the importance of maintaining a focus on morality as it intersects with political and economic process … Drawing on rich empirical case material, it is a refreshing and revitalizing 'return' to the category of patronage that will be valuable to both regional specialists and those with a broader interest in global political processes.' Jon P. Mitchell, University of Sussex

    'This book, nominated for the Coomaraswamy Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, is perhaps the most comprehensive investigation of the concept in the South Asian context. It lends enormous comparative insight to the intricate process of patronage and its implication … the book has the potential to open up new frontiers of research on patronage politics, and will be seen as a work of enduring importance for scholars of most major disciplines on South Asia.' Shaikh Mujibur Rehman, The Hindu

    'What happened to the dream of democracy or tryst with destiny that the first Prime Minister of independent India sought to implant in the citizens of free India? The question can be answered in several ways and some of the most effective responses are to be found in [this] book … a collection of articles by eminent writers and experts …' Uday Basu, The Statesman

    'Piliavsky's contributors, most of whom are anthropologists, offer fresh insights into the ways in which religious feasts, patronage handouts, and petty bureaucratic favors both support and undermine the state.' Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs

    'I believe the fundamental direction of this collection is undoubtedly correct. Patronage is not one thing and it must be understood with reference to specific historical and ethnographic contexts. Nor can it be understood as isolated dyadic transactions, but instead it must be seen as part of a broader social and cultural network of intersecting relationships and values. … What the contributors have produced is a work of tremendous significance …' Stephen M. Lyon, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2014
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107056084
    • length: 484 pages
    • dimensions: 237 x 160 x 40 mm
    • weight: 0.91kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Foreword John Dunn
    Introduction Anastasia Piliavsky
    Part I. The Idea of Patronage in South Asia:
    1. The political economy of patronage, pre-eminence and the State in Chennai Mattison Mines
    2. The temporal and the spiritual, and the so-called patron-client relation in the governance of Inner Asia and Tibet D. Seyfort Ruegg
    3. Remnants of patronage and the making of Tamil Valaiyar pasts Diane Mines
    4. Patronage and State-making in early modern empires in India and Britain Sumit Guha
    Part II. Democracy as Patronage:
    5. The paradox of patronage and the People's sovereignty David Gilmartin
    6. India's demotic democracy and its 'depravities' in the ethnographic longue durée Anastasia Piliavsky
    7. 'Vote banking' as politics in Mumbai Lisa Björkman
    8. Political fixers in India's patronage democracy Ward Berenschot
    9. Patronage and autonomy in India's deepening democracy Pamela Price, with Dusi Srinivas
    10. Police and legal patronage in northern India Beatrice Jauregui
    11. Patronage politics in post-Independence India Steven I. Wilkinson
    Part III. Prospects and Disappointments:
    12. Kingship without kings in northern India Lucia Michelutti
    13. The political bully in Bangladesh Arild Engelsen Ruud
    14. The dark side of patronage in the Pakistani Punjab Nicolas Martin
    15. Patronage and printing innovation in fifteenth-century Tibet Hildegard Diemberger
    16. The im(morality) of mediation and patronage in South India and the Gulf Filippo Osella

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  • Editor

    Anastasia Piliavsky, Zukerman Fellow in Social Anthropology, King's College, Cambridge
    Anastasia Piliavsky is a social anthropologist. She is a Research Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and Director of Studies in Social Anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge. She holds degrees from Boston University and from Oxford, where she read anthropology as a Rhodes Scholar. She has written about Indian politics, crime and secrecy for Comparative Studies in Society and History, Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge Anthropology and other journals. She is also co-Investigator on a collaborative study of democratic cultures and 'muscular' politics in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, funded by the European and British Research Councils.


    John Dunn, Anastasia Piliavsky, Mattison Mines, D. Seyfort Ruegg, Diane Mines, Sumit Guha, David Gilmartin, Lisa Björkman, Ward Berenschot, Pamela Price, Dusi Srinivas, Beatrice Jauregui, Steven I. Wilkinson, Lucia Michelutti, Arild Engelsen Ruud, Nicolas Martin, Hildegard Diemberger, Filippo Osella

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