International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Campesinos, Brokers and Politicians: Revisiting the Power of Exchanging Favours in Local Colombian Politics
Jairo Tocancipá-Falla

Patronage in the form of an exchange of gifts, goods and services for votes has characterised Colombian politics for many decades. As in the past, this practice continues to be labelled as “corrupt” because it is believed that “conciencias” (consciences) are bought. In order to explain why these practices continue in spite of recent laws and other national regulations prohibiting them, this paper casts its analysis of these patron-client relations within the theoretical framework developed by Marcel Mauss’ work on the gift. Adapted from this scholar, ‘giving and exchanging’ are thus approached as strategies to establish social networks in which political parties, rural brokers and campesinos become entangled. Furthermore, it is argued that the pervasive nature of these practices in rural Colombia can be understood by reference to their social history. The paper concludes by considering the prospects for overcoming or rearranging this patronage system within the rural context.

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