Personalism and brokerage in Dublin politics

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Title: Personalism and brokerage in Dublin politics
Authors: Komito, Lee
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Date: 31-Dec-1993
Online since: 2019-04-10T08:22:30Z
Abstract: The Republic of Ireland is often portrayed, by residents and outsiders alike, as a society where everybody knows everyone else, and, especially, knows everybody else's business. In the political arena, this has been phrased as 'personalism'. In academic discourse, this has often been translated into the terms clientelism and brokerage: voters going to politicians in order to obtain benefits from the government. There has been a wealth of discussion about clientelism and brokerage in Irish politics; indeed, it is one of the major topics for ethnographic research in the Republic of Ireland (see, for instance, Gibbon and Higgins 1974; Bax 1976; Sacks 1976; Higgins 1982; Komito 1984, 1989a, 1989b; and Wilson 1989). Although 'personalism' is often used as a coded allusion to political clientelism, it can be used simply to emphasize the personal and informal dimension of Irish politics (e.g., Schmitt 1973). This is especially true in the relationships between politicians and both partisan supporters and also voters. It is this personal dimension, as evidenced in Dublin politics, which this article addresses. Most descriptions of Irish politics provided by anthropologists have derived from rural ethnographies, and the extent to which similar behaviours would exist in urban settings has not been clear. Research in Dublin shows that urban politics is both similar and different from rural politics. The nature of party politics appears to be the same; a rural party activist would feel quite at home at a urban constituency meeting. However, urban politicians and activists have less contact with constituents than their rural counterparts. The converse is also true: urban constituents have less contact with politicians and activists than their rural counterparts. This raises an interesting question: if urban constituents are less likely to have personal links with politicians, what are the consequences for the clientelist behaviour that has been characteristic of rural politics? Do constituents learn that they can go directly to state bureaucrats, or do they continue to use politicians as brokers? The interesting answer is that they do neither. Instead, they continue to look for personal mediators or brokers, if those brokers are no longer politicians. The search for trusted intermediaries remains important, although the strategies of that search are different. This raises the general issue of personalism and trust being a feature of Dublin politics, for both middle-class and working-class individuals. Why should that be the case? In order to develop these points, this paper will first examine the daily activities of Dublin politicians, to illustrate the amount of constituency work that politicians engage in. Then, a short description of Dublin party politics provides evidence of the similarity between urban and rural party activities. However, there is a decrease in the amount of contact between politicians and voters in Dublin, as compared with rural Ireland. In this context, urban voters, like their rural counterparts, continue to look for advocates, but use different strategies and find different intermediaries or brokers. The class dimension of urban brokerage will be discussed and, finally, some general issues about Irish and urban politics will be addressed.
Type of material: Book Chapter
Publisher: Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University Belfast
Start page: 79
End page: 98
Copyright (published version): 1993 the Author
Keywords: Irish politicsPersonalismClientelism and brokerageUrban politics
Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Is part of: Curtin, C., Donnan, H., Wilson, T.M. (eds.). Irish Urban Cultures
ISBN: 978-0853895022
Appears in Collections:Information and Communication Studies Research Collection

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