Legitimating the State and the Social Movement: Clientelism, Brokerage, and Collective Land Rights in Honduras

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

State support for the collective land titling of Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities in Latin America has generated concerns over the potential de-politicization of social movements. Scholars have sought to understand how social movements articulate their political agendas for radical change with the pragmatism of negotiating land rights with the state. This paper engages the concepts of clientelism and brokerage to frame the process of negotiating the recognition of land rights as complex socio-political formations. A critical perspective on clientelism and brokerage suggests that cooperation with the state involves compromises but that this process is not tantamount to cooptation. Social movements have political agendas of their own, which they advance by collaborating with the state. Drawing on a case from Honduras, the paper explores how to the resolution of a long-standing negotiation for collective land titling in the region of Moskitia occurred within a context in which both the state and the social movement organization needed to improve their legitimacy. By enhancing their stature with its constituents, the social movement organization bolstered its capacity to negotiate with the state. This analysis shows how social movements can wield clientelistic practices to validate their positions as brokers and gain political capital for pursuing expansive projects.