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SAGE Publications

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Comparative Political Studies

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While the presence of a strong civil society is recognized as desirable for democracies, an important question is what motivates citizens to join organizations. This article presents novel experimental evidence on the conditions under which citizens join interest organizations. We presented 1,400 citizens in two Mexican states with fliers promoting a new local interest organization. These fliers contain one of four randomly selected recruitment appeals. We find evidence that both brokerage of state patronage and demand-making for local public goods are effective recruitment appeals. The effect for patronage brokerage is especially pronounced among respondents with prior organizational contact, supporting our hypothesis of a “particularistic socialization” effect wherein organizational experience is associated with greater response to selective material benefits. Our findings suggest that under some conditions, rather than generating norms of other-regarding, interest organizations can reinforce members’ individualistic tendencies.


Accepted version. Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 54, No. 1 (January 1, 2021): 110-143. DOI. © 2021 SAGE Publications. Used with permission

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