When is Civil Society Civil? Institutional determinants of claim-making and implications for societal development

Research project
Active research
Project period
2020 - 2024
Project owner
Department of Political Science

Short description

Civil society, by virtue of operating outside the sphere of government and not for profit, is well-positioned to serve as democracy’s watchdog, defending rights and denouncing government abuses, and numerous historical examples illustrate that civil society does indeed play this role. Yet, studies of third wave democracies also see indications that civil society engages in clientelism, offering political support in exchange for targeted benefits. When, where and why do CSOs sometimes work for the public good, and sometimes engage in clientelistic exchanges? We posit that CSOs choice of claim-making is a function of the institutional environment, and will use survey experiments in an attempt to shed new light on this dynamic interplay between civil society and the state.


Cornell, Agnes and Marcia Grimes (2022). “Brokering bureaucrats: How bureaucrats and civil society facilitate clientelism where parties are weak”. Comparative Political Studies. Available online at