Beyond Patronage: Ruling Party Cohesion and Authoritarian Stability

46 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 31 Aug 2010

Date Written: 2010


This paper argues that institutionalized party patronage -- the focus of recent studies by Barbara Geddes, Jason Brownlee, and Beatriz Magaloni -- is an ineffective source of elite cohesion. Patronage may preserve elite unity during normal times, but it is often insufficient to ensure elite cooperation during crises. The most durable party-based regimes are those that are organized around non-material sources of cohesion, such as ideology, ethnicity, or bonds of solidarity rooted in a shared experience of violent struggle. In particular, parties whose origins lie in war, violent anti-colonial struggle, revolution, or counter-insurgency are more likely to survive economic crisis, leadership succession, and opposition challenges without suffering debilitating defections. To demonstrate this argument, we compare post Cold War regime trajectories in Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Pure patronage parties in Kenya (KANU) and Zambia (UNIP) that were not founded in violent struggle suffered severe defections and fell from power after the Cold War. By contrast, Frelimo in Mozambique and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, which were both the outgrowth of long and violent liberation struggles, remained highly cohesive and retained power in the face of powerful opposition challenges and significant economic downturn.

Keywords: parties, authoritarianism, African politics, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe

Suggested Citation

Levitsky, Steven and Way, Lucan A., Beyond Patronage: Ruling Party Cohesion and Authoritarian Stability (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Steven Levitsky

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lucan A. Way (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

105 St George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8

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