Winning Hearts and Votes

Winning Hearts and Votes

Social Services and the Islamist Political Advantage

In non-democratic regimes around the world, non-state organizations provide millions of citizens with medical care, schooling, childrearing, and other critical social services. Why would any authoritarian countenance this type of activism? Under what conditions does the private provision of social services generate political mobilization? And in those cases, what linkage does the provision of social services forge between the provider and recipient?

In Winning Hearts and Votes, Steven Brooke argues that authoritarians often seek to manage moments of economic crisis by offloading social welfare responsibilities to non-state providers. But providers who serve poorer citizens, motivated by either charity of clientelism, will be constrained in their ability to mobilize voters because the poor depend on the state for many different goods. Organizations that serve paying customers, in contrast, may produce high quality, consistent, and effective services. This type of provision generates powerful, reputation-based linkages with a middle-class constituency more likely to support the provider on election day.

Brooke backs up his novel argument with an in-depth examination of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the archetypal organization that combines social service provision with electoral success. With a fascinating array of historical, qualitative, spatial, and experimental data he traces the Brotherhood’s provision of medical services from its origins in the 1970s, through its maturation under the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak, to its apogee during the country’s brief democratic interlude, 2011–2013. In addition to generating new insights into authoritarian regimes, party-voter linkages and clientelism, and the relationship between political parties and social movements, Winning Hearts and Votes details the history, operations, and political effects of the Muslim Brotherhood’s much discussed but little understood social service network.

Steven Brooke

Steven Brooke is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisville and Associate Fellow (Non-Resident) at the Middle East Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School.