(Journal of Asian and African Studies, 2011) Benit Gbaffou, Claire
The paper revisits participation and decentralization in relation to local clientelism, arguing that they share the personalization of links between residents and the State and the local possibility to adapt state policies. The line between decentralization-participation on the one hand, and clientelism on the other, is therefore easily blurred. The paper thus argues that clientelism is not per se anti-democratic, some forms allow for local and immediate accountability of politicians. However, in most cases, it contributes to fragment or sedate local organizations or social movements and it prevents contestation of existing policies and dominant power structures. The paper thus challenges the idea that the promotion of decentralization and participatory institutions intrinsically leads to more democratic forms of government.