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This page contains information on informality-related projects, organised by the contributors to the Encyclopaedia, to foster collaboration among the authors.

Forthcoming: Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Management

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CFP: Informal institutions and international business

Informal institutions and international business - A special issue of the Journal of International Business Studies


  • Luis Alfonso Dau (Northeastern University, USA,
  • Aya Chacar (Florida International University, USA,
  • Marjorie Lyles (Indiana University, USA,
  • Jiatao Li (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong,

Deadline for submission: August 31, 2018

Tentative publication date: Spring 2020


This call invites papers focusing on the relationship between informal institutions and international business. In this special issue, we understand institutions to be “humanly devised constraints” or “the rules of the game in a society” (North, 1990: 3). Much attention has been paid to formal institutions, or the written (or codified) rules or constraints, such as laws, regulations, constitutions, contracts, property rights, and formal agreements. On the other hand, much less attention has been given to informal institutions or the typically unwritten but socially shared rules and constraints (Pejovich, 1999; Sartor & Beamish, 2014; Sauerwald & Peng, 2013). These informal institutions include common values, cognitions, beliefs, traditions, customs, sanctions, and norms of behavior that are often expected or taken for granted (North, 1990, 2005). In common parlance, the term ‘institutions’ is often used to refer to ‘organizations’ (e.g., governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, etc.), but it is important to distinguish between institutions and organizations for academic purposes in order to examine the relationship between them (Chacar, Celo, & Hesterly, 2017; North, 1990, 2005; Scott, 2013). For instance, the WTO is an organization that provides a formal institutional framework of written rules to which its member countries agree to adhere. Simultaneously, membership in the WTO creates informal (or unwritten) institutional structures between member nations, such as reciprocity and interdependency expectations. Papers examining the interaction of formal and informal institutions on international business are also welcome.

In the advent of globalization, the international business literature has increasingly emphasized the importance of considering the institutional environment, instead of studying firm behavior in a vacuum (Dau, 2012, 2013, 2017; Eden, 2010; Kostova, 1997, Kostova et al., 2008; Li, 2013; Li & Qian, 2013). Still, a gap exists in our understanding of informal institutions, as formal institutions only provide part of the picture (North, 1990). This gap is particularly problematic in developing and emerging markets, where informal institutions may have a more prominent role, enabling and facilitating business transactions (Khanna & Palepu, 1997, 2000; Verbeke & Kano, 2013).

Note that this special issue invites papers on informal institutions and not culture, although submissions may examine their relationship and tease out the differences between the two constructs as they relate to international business. Some prior work has treated culture and informal institutions as synonymous. However, these two terms are distinct albeit they can overlap at times. Definitions of culture vary in the literature, but it is typically defined as “the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values” (Hofstede, 1984: 51). It “is the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs” (Schein, 1985: 6-7; see also, Hofstede, 1980, 1994; House et al., 2004; Schein, 2004; Tung & Verbeke, 2010). Informal institutions, on the other hand, are the actual unwritten rules and norms of behavior (North, 1990, 2005), which likely arise as a result of and in conjunction with the cultural framework, but also of formal structures in place in a given location. For instance, whereas culture is often captured with broad dimensions such as the degree of uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1980), embeddedness (Schwartz, 1992), or assertiveness (House, et al., 2004), informal institutions specifically refer to the shared unwritten rules or norms in a society, organization, or other social grouping.

Interdisciplinary Work and Work from Different Perspectives

Interdisciplinary work and research from different institutional perspectives is particularly welcome. Campbell (2004) has identified three main “institutional theories”: rational choice institutionalism (or institutional economics/comparative institutional analyses) (North, 1990; Williamson, 1975, 1985, 2000), organizational institutionalism (or neo-institutional theory) (DiMaggio & Powell, 1991; Scott, 1987, 2013), and historical institutionalism (or institutional sociology) (Granovetter, 1985, 1992, 2017). These theoretical strands are associated primarily with economics, political science, and sociology, respectively, but have been used across disciplines using other names as well (Campbell, 2004).

Submissions should make a clear and novel theoretical contribution, but may build on any theoretical lens (e.g., internalization theory, resource based view, transaction cost economics, evolutionary theory, learning theory, agency theory, etc.) in addition to the institutional theories (Cantwell et al., 2010; Dunning & Lundan, 2008, 2010). What is critical is to use the institutional framework to help develop new theoretical insights.

Furthermore, we encourage work that provides novel ways of measuring informal institutions.

Sample Topics

Given the limited attention on the effects of informal institutions on firms, as well as on the joint effects of formal and informal institutions on firms, this call for papers is purposefully broad. The following is not an exhaustive list, but provides some examples of potential topics:

1. How do informal institutions, and their interactions with formal institutions, affect firms?

  • What is their impact on firm strategy across borders (e.g., internationalization decisions, location choices, mode of entry decisions, entrepreneurship, global corporate social responsibility, global innovation, etc.) (Dau & Cuervo-Cazurra, 2014; Pejovich, 1999)?
  • Are some of these institutions or combinations of institutions in different markets more conducive to firm success (Chacar, Newburry, & Vissa, 2010)?
  • How do firms organize internally to improve their institutional fit across countries? What structures and organizational models do they choose under different institutional conditions?
  • How do organizations learn the informal rules and develop international capabilities to manage them (Easterby-Smith & Lyles, 2011; Lyles, 2014)? How do resources and capabilities vary in these differing institutional contexts?
  • How does informal knowledge sharing or know-how sharing take place? How do inter- and intra-organizational learning systems and knowledge transfer relate to informal vis-à-vis formal institutional information and knowledge?
  • Do informal rules and governance choices allow unethical choices that are covered up? What happens if they are exposed?
  • What is the relationship between governance choices and the use of informal institutional structures, such as relational contracting based on favors, trust, reciprocity, interdependency, family ties, social capital networks, mutually beneficial relationships, interpersonal connections, and business group networks (Vissa, Greve, & Chen, 2010)? What is the specific role of informal structures such as Guanxi/Guanxiwang in China, Blats/Svyazy in Russia, Wasta in the Arab World, Immak in Korea, Kankei in Japan, Jeito/Jeitinho in Brazil, and ‘grease’ payments (Batjargal, 2007; Chen et al., 2004; Chua et al., 2009; Ledeneva, 1998; Millington et al., 2005; Opper et al., 2017; Park & Luo, 2001; Smith et al., 2012; Zhou et al., 2007)?
  • How do informal institutions alter the value distributions among stakeholders (Chacar & Hesterly, 2008; Coff, 1999; Lieberman & Chacar, 1997)?
  • How does the nature of competition and industry structure change with the informal institutional structure? Are foreign and local firms affected differently (Chacar & Vissa, 2005)?

2. How do these institutions change and how do actors and organizations affect them (Vaccaro & Palazzo, 2015)?

  • How do firms engage in non-market strategies to affect informal and formal institutions and institutional structures/frameworks?
  • How do firms influence formal and informal institutions in different ways?
  • What is the impact of informal institutions on international organizations (e.g., international non-governmental organizations [INGOs], inter-governmental organizations [IGOs], international non-profit organizations [INPOs], etc.) and how do these organizations affect informal institutions?

Research Across Levels of Analysis

Although institutions are typically conceptualized at the national level of analysis, they may also be conceptualized at other levels, such as the supranational, regional, corporate, subsidiary, functional area, or workgroup/team levels of analysis. Papers focusing on informal institutions at different levels are also welcome. In particular, papers that study informal institutions across levels of analysis are particularly welcome. Some examples follow:

  • How are informal supranational institutions (i.e., hyper norms that cross borders) and formal supranational institutions (i.e., international laws, rules, regulations, and agreements) shaped by globalization and how does this affect international business?
  • How are supranational informal and formal institutions impacted by the diversity in informal and formal national environments and how does this complicate international business? Similarly, how can firms cope with or even benefit from such differences?
  • When do the informal and formal institutional frameworks of a firm clash and when are they compatible with the informal and formal institutional environments of their home and host countries of operation?
  • How can firms align informal and formal institutions across their international subsidiaries or across their areas of operation to enhance their international efficiency, growth, and performance?
  • How do business group informal institutional structures and networks operate and what are the implications for international business?
  • How do firms manage informal institutional differences across their international units (headquarters/subsidiaries), functional areas, or work groups?
  • Do MNEs provide a means of reducing informal and formal institutional differences across nations?

Conference and Symposium

With the aim of helping the authors further develop their papers, we will organize a paper development workshop conference during the spring of 2019. We will invite the authors of papers that receive the option to revise and resubmit their manuscripts. Together with the review process, the opportunity to present and receive comments from discussants and conference participants, will aid authors in strengthening and refining their papers.

Furthermore, we plan to have a symposium at a major academic conference in 2020 for the final selected papers that will appear in the special issue, in order to increase their visibility and impact.

Submission Process and Deadlines

Submissions need to meet JIBS guidelines, including in terms of what is considered international business. Typically, single country studies are only considered international if they focus on international firms or firm internationalization. Furthermore, submission should have implications for international business, although they may also have secondary implications for other fields.

All manuscripts will be reviewed as a cohort for this Special Issue. Manuscripts must be submitted between August 17-31, at All submissions will go through the JIBS regular double-blind review process and follow the standard norms and processes.

For more information about this Call for Papers, please contact the Special Issue Editors or the JIBS Managing Editor (


Batjargal, B. 2007. Network triads: transitivity, referral and venture capital decisions in China and Russia. Journal of International Business Studies, 38(6): 998-1012.

Campbell, J.L. 2004. Institutional Change and Globalization. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Cantwell, J.L., Dunning, J.H. and Lundan, S.M. 2010. An evolutionary approach to understanding international business activity: The co-evolution of MNEs and the institutional environment. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(4): 567-586.

Chacar, A.S., & Hesterly, W. 2008. Institutional settings and rent appropriation by knowledge‐based employees: the case of Major League Baseball. Managerial and Decision Economics, 29(2‐3), 117-136.

Chacar, A.S., Newburry, W., & Vissa, B. 2010. Bringing institutions into performance persistence research: Exploring the impact of product, financial, and labor market institutions. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(7), 1119-1140.

Chacar, A.S., & Vissa, B. 2005. Are emerging economies less efficient? Performance persistence and the impact of business group affiliation. Strategic Management Journal, 26(10), 933-946.

Chacar, A.S., Celo, S. & Hesterly 2017. The Rules of the Game in MLB: Do Formal or Informal Institutions Change First? Business History, in press:

Chen, C.C., Chen, Y.R., and Xin, K. 2004. Guanxi practices and trust in management: A procedural justice perspective. Organization Science, 15(2): 200-209.

Chua, R.Y., Morris, M.W., and Ingram, P. 2009. Guanxi vs. networking: Distinctive configurations of affect-and cognition-based trust in the networks of Chinese vs. American managers. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(3): 490-508.

Coff, R.W. 1999. When competitive advantage doesn't lead to performance: The resource-based view and stakeholder bargaining power. Organization science, 10(2), 119-133.

Dau, L.A. 2012. Pro-market reforms and developing country multinational corporations. Global Strategy Journal, 2(3): 262-276.

Dau, L.A. 2013. Learning across geographic space: Pro-market reforms, multinationalization strategy, and profitability. Journal of International Business Studies, 44(3): 235-262.

Dau, L.A. 2017. Contextualizing international learning: The moderating effects of mode of entry and subsidiary networks on the relationship between reforms and profitability. Journal of World Business, in press:

Dau, L.A. and Cuervo-Cazurra, A. 2014. To Formalize or Not to Formalize: Entrepreneurship and pro-Market Institutions. Journal of Business Venturing, 29(5): 668-686.

DiMaggio, P.J. and Powell, W.W. (eds.) 1991. The new institutionalism in organizational analysis (Vol. 17). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Dunning, J.H. and Lundan, S.M. 2008. Institutions and the OLI paradigm of the multinational enterprise. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 25(4): 573–593.

Dunning, J. H. and Lundan, S.M. 2010. The institutional origins of dynamic capabilities in multinational enterprises. Industrial and Corporate Change, 19(4): 1225-1246.

Easterby-Smith, M., and Lyles, M.A. (Eds.) 2011. Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management. New York: John Willey and Sons.

Eden, L. 2010. Letter from the Editor-in-Chief: Lifting the veil on how institutions matter in IB research. Journal of International Business Studies, 41.2: 175-177.

Granovetter, M. 1985. Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91: 481–510.

Granovetter, M. 1992. Economic institutions as social constructions: A framework for analysis. Acta Sociologica, 35(1): 3-11.

Granovetter, M. 2017. Society and economy: Framework and principles. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hofstede, G. 1980. Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Hofstede, G. 1984. National cultures and corporate cultures. In L.A. Samovar, R.E. Porter (Eds.), Communication between cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Hofstede, G. 1994. The business of international business is culture. International Business Review, 3(1): 1–14.

House, R.J., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W., & Gupta, V. (Eds.). 2004. Culture, leadership and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Khanna, T. and Palepu, K.G. 1997. Why focused strategies may be wrong for emerging markets. Harvard Business Review, 75(4): 41-51.

Khanna, T. and Palepu, K.G. 2000. The future of business groups in emerging markets: Long-run evidence from Chile. Academy of Management Journal, 43: 268-285.

Kostova, T. 1997. Country institutional profiles: Concept and measurement. Academy of Management Proceedings, 180-183.

Kostova, T., Roth, K. and Dacin, M.T. 2008. Institutional theory in the study of multinational corporations: A critique and new directions. Academy of Management Review, 33(4): 994-1006.

Ledeneva, A.V. 1998. Russia’s economy of favors: Blat, networking, and informal exchange. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Li, J.T. 2013. The Internationalization of Entrepreneurial Firms from Emerging Economies: The Roles of Institutional Transitions and Market Opportunities. Journal of International Entrepreneurship, 11(2): 158-171.

Li, J.T and Qian, C. 2013. Principal-Principal Conflicts under Weak Institutions: A Study of Corporate Takeovers in China. Strategic Management Journal, 34: 498-508.

Lieberman, M. & Chacar, A.S. 1997. Distribution of Returns among Stakeholders: Method and Application to U.S. and Japanese Companies . In Thomas, Howard and O’Neal, Don (Eds.) 1997, Strategic Discovery: Competing in New Arenas. John Wiley & Sons Ltd: London, UK.

Lyles, M.A. 2014. Organizational Learning, knowledge creation, problem formulation and innovation in messy problems. European Management Journal, 32(1): 132-136.

Millington, A., Eberhardt, M., and Wilkinson, B. 2005. Gift giving, guanxi and illicit payments in buyer–supplier relations in China: Analysing the experience of UK companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 57(3): 255-268.

North, D.C. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

North, D.C. 2005. Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Opper, S., Nee, V. and Holm, H. 2017. Risk Aversion and Guanxi Activities: A Behavioral Analysis of CEOs in China. Academy of Management Journal, 60(4): 1504-1530.

Park, S. and Luo, Y. 2001 Guanxi and organizational dynamics: Organizational networking in Chinese firms, Strategic Management Journal, 22: 455-477.

Pejovich, S. 1999. The effects of the interaction of formal and informal institutions on social stability and economic development. Journal of Markets and Morality, 2(2).

Sartor, M.A. and Beamish, P.W. 2014. Offshoring innovation to emerging markets: Organizational control and informal institutional distance. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(9): 1072-1095.

Sauerwald, S., & Peng, M.W. 2013. Informal institutions, shareholder coalitions, and principal–principal conflicts. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 30(3), 853-870.

Schein, E.H. 1985. Organizational Culture and Leadership (1st edition), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Schein, E.H. 2004. Organizational Culture and Leadership (3rd edition), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Schwartz, S.H. 1992. Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. San Diego: Academic Press.

Scott, W.R. 1987. The adolescence of institutional theory. Administrative science quarterly: 32(4): 493-511.

Scott, W.R. 2013. Institutions and organizations (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Smith, P.B., Torres, C., Leong, C.H., Budhwar, P., Achoui, M., Lebedeva, N. 2012. Are indigenous approaches to achieving influence in business organizations distinctive? A comparative study of guanxi, wasta, jeitinho, svyazi and pulling strings. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(2): 333-348.

Tung, R.L., and Verbeke, A. 2010. Beyond Hofstede and GLOBE: Improving the quality of cross-cultural research. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(8), 1259-1274.

Vaccaro, A., & Palazzo, G. 2015. Values against violence: institutional change in societies dominated by organized crime. Academy of Management Journal, 58(4), 1075-1101.

Verbeke, A., & Kano, L. 2013. The transaction cost economics (TCE) theory of trading favors. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 30(2), 409-431.

Vissa, B., Greve, H.R., & Chen, W.R. 2010. Business group affiliation and firm search behavior in India: Responsiveness and focus of attention. Organization Science, 21(3), 696-712.

Williamson, O.E. 1975. Markets and Hierarchies, Analysis and Antitrust Implications: A Study in the Economics of Internal Organization. New York: Free Press.

Williamson, O.E. 1985. The Economic Institutions of Capitalism: Firms, Markets, Relational Contracting. New York: Free Press.

Williamson, O.E. 2000. The New Institutional Economics: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead. Journal of Economic Literature, 38(3): 595-613.

Zhou, L, Wu, W.P., Luo, X. 2007. Internationalization and the performance of born-global SMEs: the mediating role of social networks." Journal of International Business Studies, 38(4): 673-690.

About the Guest Editors

Luis Alfonso Dau is an associate professor of International Business and Strategy at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. His research focuses on the strategic responses of emerging market firms to institutional processes and changes. He is particularly interested in the impact of regulatory reforms on the international strategy and performance of such firms.

Aya Chacar is an Professor in Management and International Business and Ingersoll-Rand Chaired Professor at Florida International University. She holds a PhD in Strategy and Organization from University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests are on the interaction of institutions and globalization on firm organization and leadership, strategy and performance, strategic human assets and value appropriation. Marjorie Lyles is Professor of International Strategic Management at Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the Kimball Faculty Fellow. She was founding Director of the Indiana University Center on Southeast Asia. She is a member of the American Management Association's International Council and has been an Invited Scholar and consultant for the U.S. Department of Commerce in the Peoples' Republic of China. Marjorie's writings center on organizational learning, international strategies and cooperative alliances, and technology development particularly in emerging economies. She is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business and a JIBS Area Editor. Jiatao (JT) Li is Lee Quo Wei Professor of Business, Head and Chair Professor of Management, and the Senior Associate Dean of the HKUST Business School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. His current research interests are in the areas of organizational learning, strategic alliances, corporate governance, innovation, and entrepreneurship, with a focus on issues related to global firms and those from emerging economies. His work has appeared in top academic journals such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of International Business Studies, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal. He is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business and a JIBS Area Editor.

Upcoming Special Issue Project “Transnationalizing Clientelism”

Transnationalizing Clientelism

Edited by Tina Hilgers, Jana Hönke and Markus-Michael Müller


This special issue project on “Transnationalizing Clientelism” addresses two significant gaps in the literature on clientelism: one regarding levels of analysis and the other regarding normative assumptions. Since the post World War II years, clientelism has been a key tool for analyzing political, economic, and social arrangements at local and national levels in the Global South, where state presence is not consolidated across national territories. Yet, despite the impact of transnational influences on the Global South – from the colonial to the present era – the role of transnational actors and their resources in clientelism has not been examined. At the same time, the recent literature overwhelmingly assumes clientelism to have a negative impact on affected actors and institutions, despite traditional theoretical positions and contemporary ethnographic evidence of the contrary. We argue that clientelism facilitates the entry of transnational initiatives and organizations to areas of limited statehood; that transnational actors influence the quality of clientelistic relations; and, as a result, that the effect of such relations is much more complex than negative assumptions acknowledge. For decades, clientelism has been a central topic in debates on political development and governance in areas of limited statehood, that is, in contexts where governments are unwilling or unable to exercise authority throughout their territory. An earlier generation of scholars addressed patron-clientelism as a “lop-sided friendship” (Pitt-Rivers 1954: 140) between actors with unequal resource endowments, analyzing it as a neutral, if not positive, form of resource allocation; an important functional equivalent to absent or inefficient state institutions; and an effective mechanism for creating social cohesion (e.g. Schmidt et al. 1977). The contemporary literature, however, considers clientelism as a problem for democratic consolidation, citizenship, the effectiveness of state institutions, and the provision of collective goods, and as an indicator of the persistence of authoritarian political structures (e.g. van de Walle 2003, Kitschelt and Wilkinson 2007, Stokes et al. 2013). This literature neglects previous insights regarding the functional equivalence of clientelistic practices and structures in areas of limited statehood.

At the same time, a shortcoming of both traditional and contemporary debates on the topic consists of the exclusive focus on national/subnational levels of analysis, neglecting the transnational. Thus, the role of external actors, the availability of external resources (money, knowledge, discourses) and transnational power relations in shaping, (re)producing and transforming clientelistic relations in areas of limited statehood has been neglected. Traditional studies are marked by a strong “methodological nationalism” despite the fact that the contexts (e.g. Java for Geertz 1960 and Mexico for Wolf 1956) had a deep historical experience with transnational forms of political relations due to their colonial past. From the 1980s onwards, following the rise of “transitology thinking” in political science, clientelism became increasingly analytically entangled with questions of the quality of democracy, elections, and citizenship (e.g. Fox 1994, Stokes 2005), again focusing on domestic actors and institutions. Today, despite a multitude of new studies on the phenomenon (e.g. Szwarcberg 2012, Stokes et al. 2013, Montambeault 2015, Hirvi and Whitfield 2015, Holland 2017, Hilgers and Macdonald 2017, Ledeneva 2018), the links between clientelism and the contemporary context of transnational flows of technology, knowledge, finance, and power have still not been made explicit.

However, most places that have been studied by scholars working on clientelism are deeply integrated in transnational relations of all kinds, including economic and migration processes, NGOs, development projects, security cooperation, norm diffusion, traveling “governance experts” (Dezalay and Garth 2011), and so forth. Indeed, the analytical neglect of clientelism’s transnational dimension is striking, considering that approximately 80% of the world’s population lives in areas of limited statehood (Risse 2011), where states engage in fluid co-governance with domestic and foreign actors. As a result, important questions of whether and how local clientelistic relations shape external actors, as well as whether and how clientelism extends into transnational governance structures, have not been addressed (see Hönke and Müller 2018; for exceptions see Cooley and Heathershaw 2017, Hönke 2018).

If most territories across the Global South are marked by uncertain sovereignty, several questions arise that call for reassessing conventional perspectives on clientelism:

  • How do transnational actors wanting to establish themselves in areas of limited statehood manage to gain access through clientelistic relations?
  • Once they are established, what impact do they have on clientelistic practices?
  • How do clientelistic practices feed back into the workings of transnational governance and how are actors and institutions that set and implement transnational governance agendas themselves shaped by clientelistic practices?

The contributors to this project address these questions, offering fresh perspectives on the role of transnational forces in shaping and being shaped by clientelistic practices. Overall, the contributions demonstrate that the success of external actors – be they legal enterprises, extractive industries, security operations, and NGOs, or criminal organizations – in breaking into the markets, territories and governance structures of the Global South depends on clientelism. Moreover, they highlight that clientelism feeds into the workings and dynamics of transnational actors, for instance through the incorporation or creation of the informal networks of local partners. Thus, in showcasing the transnational dimension of clientelism in our contemporary world, the special issue expands the literature on clientelism to account for both the impact of transnational actors on the transformation of the “local” on the one hand, and the “studying up” of clientelism as a force determining transnational relations in areas of limited statehood, on the other.

In order to unpack these connections, the contributions to this project draw on the findings of empirical research from cases around the globe and engage with the analytical framework outlined in the guest editors’ introduction (Hilgers, Hönke, and Müller, based on this proposal). They zoom in on key issue areas that are paradigmatic examples of deep and often co-constitutive interrelations between clientelism and transnational forces in our contemporary world. The cases range from security and military practices in Latin America and Africa; to transnational money laundering circuits in Central Asia and the tolerance of foreign corruption by Western banks; to transnational NGOs working in Russia; and the activities of transnational extractive industries in the Americas.

Together, the case studies generate a new research program. They enrich our understanding of the connections between transnational forces and clientelism through a variety of theoretical perspectives, analytical choices, and methodological approaches. This variety provides the elements for a comparative reading permitting us to observe commonalties and differences in the entanglements between clientelism and transnationalism depending on the specific sites in which these unfold as well as on the actors and practices involved. The resulting insights produce a research program for analyzing and explaining the dynamic causes and consequences of transnational clientelism that offers important insights to the constitutive role of clientelism in shaping contemporary transnational governance.

The special issue project builds on a set of papers presented at an international authors’ workshop at the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 700 “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood” at Freie Universität Berlin in June 2015; as well as on two roundtables at the Latin American Studies Association’s annual meetings in 2016 (New York) and 2017 (Lima). To increase the coherence of the special issue, each contribution addresses four questions:

  • What is the connection between transnational forces and clientelism in the context of your article?
  • How does your argument contribute to the study of the entanglements between clientelism and transnational relations?
  • How does your contribution approach the connection between clientelism and transnationalism from a novel theoretical and/or methodological perspective?
  • What is relevant/specific about your context for addressing these questions?


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