Not Just Poor People’s Politics: Educational Capital, Job Networks, and Party Activism in Lebanon

Master's Thesis


While most of the literature on political clientelism focuses on the mobilization of poor voters in developing democracies in the global south, a growing number of studies examine how clientelism operates across different levels of class. Scholars of clientelism have demonstrated that political machines recruit party support by directly providing poor voters with goods and services during elections; however, this study demonstrates how patronage structures also target middle-class voters. Consistent with the literature on class and contentious politics, I argue that being middle class may actually bolster party activism in clientelistic settings by providing the kinds of resources and social capital needed to sustain political activity over time. For instance, middle class actors possess more material assets than their working-class peers, and they may circulate in white-collar job networks, both of which are factors that encourage activism in contexts where demonstrating party loyalty is necessary for social advancement. On the other hand, highly educated actors who lack access to the network of high-status jobs may register their disaffection with clientelism by decreasing their levels of political activity. This study adds to the literature on class and clientelism by using survey and interview data from Lebanon to demonstrate that middle class voters occupy a complex position within patronage structures. While some may be pushed to demonstrate party loyalty based on their professional and business associations, those who are alienated from that network will be more likely to disengage. The implications of these results may extend beyond Lebanon, meriting further study.


Attribute NameValues
Author Michelle Sawwan
Contributor Ann E. Mische, Research Director
Contributor Erin McDonnell, Committee Member
Contributor Asher Kaufman, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Banner Code
  • MA-SOC

Defense Date
  • 2020-01-31

Submission Date 2020-03-17
  • Inequality

  • Sectarianism

  • Class

  • Development

  • Clientelism

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units
Catalog Record


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