The Promise of Patronage: Adapting and Adopting Neoliberal Development Academic Article uri icon


  • Much of the literature on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and development suggests that a top-down process is underway which leads to the dispersal of neoliberal ideals. Drawing on 2 years of ethnographic research in Rajasthan, India, this paper examines how a poverty alleviation project " fits" into competitive and co-operative socio-economic relations already operating on the ground. It argues that in contradiction to neoliberal notions of empowerment espoused by project policies, both NGOs and their constituents have an interest in establishing and maintaining patronage networks that stabilize relationships of dependency. The paper concludes that neoliberal development projects serve to enable patron-client relationships between NGOs and villagers, and enroll the state in the continuing provision of benefits beyond those planned by the project. © 2010 The Author Journal compilation © 2010 Editorial Board of Antipode.

author list (cited authors)

  • O’Reilly, K.

citation count

  • 29

publication date

  • January 2010