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Compassionate Communalism

Compassionate Communalism: Welfare and Sectarianism in Lebanon

Melani Cammett
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Compassionate Communalism
    Book Description:

    In Lebanon, religious parties such as Hezbollah play a critical role in providing health care, food, poverty relief, and other social welfare services alongside or in the absence of government efforts. Some parties distribute goods and services broadly, even to members of other parties or other faiths, while others allocate services more narrowly to their own base. In Compassionate Communalism, Melani Cammett analyzes the political logics of sectarianism through the lens of social welfare. On the basis of years of research into the varying welfare distribution strategies of Christian, Shia Muslim, and Sunni Muslim political parties in Lebanon, Cammett shows how and why sectarian groups deploy welfare benefits for such varied goals as attracting marginal voters, solidifying intraconfessional support, mobilizing mass support, and supporting militia fighters.

    Cammett then extends her arguments with novel evidence from the Sadrist movement in post-Saddam Iraq and the Bharatiya Janata Party in contemporary India, other places where religious and ethnic organizations provide welfare as part of their efforts to build political support. Nonstate welfare performs a critical function in the absence of capable state institutions, Cammett finds, but it comes at a price: creating or deepening social divisions, sustaining rival visions of the polity, or introducing new levels of social inequality.

    Compassionate Communalism is informed by Cammett's use of many methods of data collection and analysis, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis of the location of hospitals and of religious communities; a large national survey of Lebanese citizens regarding access to social welfare; standardized open-ended interviews with representatives from political parties, religious charities, NGOs, and government ministries, as well as local academics and journalists; large-scale proxy interviewing of welfare beneficiaries conducted by trained Lebanese graduate students matched with coreligionist respondents; archival research; and field visits to schools, hospitals, clinics, and other social assistance programs as well as political party offices throughout the country.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7033-2
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In June 2007, Hamza Shahrour, a twenty-four-year-old Lebanese man, died of heart failure in Beirut. Hamza’s death might have been prevented had he received timely medical attention, but the hospital where his family first took him refused to admit him. In Lebanon, examples abound of low-income patients who are turned away from hospital emergency rooms because they cannot cover the costs of treatment, and the Lebanese media periodically feature stories about patients who die in ambulances outside private hospitals that have refused to accept them on financial grounds (Al-NaharStaff 1998; Balaa 2005). In the case of Hamza Shahrour, however,...

  6. 1 Welfare and Sectarianism in Plural Societies
    (pp. 7-37)

    Sectarianism has emerged with renewed vigor in the past two decades across the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and central Europe. Ostensibly perpetrated in the name of religion, headline-grabbing acts of violence have been ascribed to an allegedly enduring Sunni-Shi‘a divide in Islam in Iraq, Pakistan, and other predominantly Muslim countries (Nasr 2007, 60–62). Recurrent tensions between Muslims and Hindus in India have led to periodic outbursts of violence, leaving many dead and injured in their wake (Brass 1997; Varshney 2002; Wilkinson 2004). Similarly, riots between Muslims and Christians have led to frequent bloodshed in Nigeria...

  7. 2 Political Sectarianism and the Residual Welfare Regime in Lebanon
    (pp. 38-57)

    Membership in religious communities shapes most aspects of everyday life in Lebanon. Religious authorities retain control over the rites of birth, death, and marriage, compelling citizens who seek a civil rather than religious union to travel overseas—often to Cyprus.¹ The influence of religion is particularly palpable in the Lebanese system of social provision. Religious institutions are key providers of social services and have been for centuries, particularly for those who lack insurance or sufficient means to resort to the private market. Increasingly, sectarian parties have entered the business of providing social welfare. To contextualize the emergence and evolving role...

  8. 3 Political Mobilization Strategies and In-Group Competition among Sectarian Parties
    (pp. 58-84)

    Political life in Lebanon is structured along sectarian lines, ensuring the salience of religious identity in both formal and informal politics (Lieberman and Singh 2009). Eligibility to serve in government posts depends on sectarian quotas, and public resources are formally and informally distributed both explicitly and implicitly across sects. A bloody fifteen-year civil war was waged, in part, in response to the rigidity of this system (El-Khazen 2000; Khalaf 1987; Picard 2002; Salibi 1976; Traboulsi 2007), and the peace agreement that officially ended the war, the Taʾif Agreement, modified but did not eliminate institutionalized sectarianism (Hudson 1999; Salam 2003). It...

  9. 4 The Political Geography of Welfare and Sectarianism
    (pp. 85-114)

    Whom do ethnic or sectarian welfare organizations serve? Political parties and charities with ethnic or religious affiliations are generally presumed to cater to their own communities (Chandra 2004; Habyarimana et al. 2009).¹ But the reality is often complicated, even in the most fractionalized societies. Studies of politics in Lebanon and common accounts by Lebanese citizens indicate that even parties that employ the most vehement sectarian rhetoric aim to serve members of out-groups. For example, in the aftermath of the civil war, Hezbollah reached out to Christian merchants and residents who returned to reclaim businesses and homes in the southern suburbs...

  10. 5 Political Loyalty and Access to Welfare
    (pp. 115-137)

    In 1998, after Israeli air raids incapacitated Lebanese power stations, a member of Rafiq al-Hariri’s staff contacted residents in the immediate vicinity of al-Hariri’s residence in Qreitem, the neighborhood in West Beirut where his political operations were based. The al-Hariri representative asked, “The prime minister has instructed us to provide electricity to his neighbors. Would you be interested in being connected?” When Ahmad, who lived in a building down the street from the al-Hariri residence, learned of the offer, he naturally accepted because al-Hariri’s power supply was continuous—and free of charge—whereas the generator he normally used offered limited...

  11. 6 Sectarian Parties and Distributional Politics
    (pp. 138-190)

    The previous two chapters have described the broad welfare outreach patterns of the main Sunni, Shiʿa, and Christian parties in Lebanon at the community and household levels. The spatial and survey data presented thus far provide snapshots of the welfare activities of these parties, but their distributional behavior has varied and evolved in different historical periods. Qualitative data from archival materials and interviews with elites and nonelites offer an important supplement. In this chapter, I trace the linkages between the shifting political strategies of the major sectarian parties and intrasect political dynamics, on the one hand, and the allocation of...

  12. 7 Welfare and Identity Politics beyond Lebanon
    (pp. 191-216)

    In the preceding chapters, I have explored the linkages between political imperatives and the allocation of social benefits in the major sectarian parties of Lebanon. In this chapter, I extend the discussion by examining the political strategies and distributional activities of the Sadrist Movement in Iraq and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India. Both of these organizations have associated welfare wings, albeit with varying degrees of development and institutionalized in distinct ways, and appeal to identity-based constituencies in their pronouncements and deployment of symbols. Both the Sadrists and the BJP maneuver within national institutional contexts that enable them to...

  13. Conclusion: The Consequences of Welfare Provision by Identity-Based Organizations
    (pp. 217-234)

    The distribution of social benefits by ethnoreligious organizations in the Middle East, Asia, and other regions of the Global South highlights the connections between identity politics and social welfare. Both sectarianism and the provision of social services entail the construction of boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, and through their welfare activities, identity-based organizations create or perpetuate group membership. At the communal level, analyzing the conditions under which sectarian organizations extend benefits beyond in-group areas illuminates the political geography of sectarianism. At the individual or household level, the degree to which parties favor core supporters or offer services more inclusively unpacks...

  14. Appendix A List of Elite Interview Respondents and Provider Questionnaire
    (pp. 235-246)
  15. Appendix B List of Nonelite Interview Respondents and Questionnaire
    (pp. 247-259)
  16. Appendix C National Survey Questions
    (pp. 260-266)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 267-290)
  18. References
    (pp. 291-308)
  19. Index
    (pp. 309-316)