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Winning Hearts and Votes: Social Services and the Islamist Political Advantage, Steven Brooke

Reviewed by Sofia Fenner



This is a book that scholars of the Middle East have been waiting for. We have long known that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s political success owes something to its social service activities, but until now, the exact nature of the connection remained unclear. Steven Brooke takes the available data as far as it will go to show how the Brotherhood’s social services—specifically those of its Islamic Medical Association (IMA)—translate into electoral support. Winning Hearts and Votes poses and answers three long-overdue questions: Why do authoritarian rulers allow nonstate service provision in the first place? Under what circumstances do social services help a party at the ballot box? And when services do translate into votes, why?

Brooke leverages qualitative and quantitative data to provide compelling answers to all three questions. He shows that Egyptian presidents permitted nonstate service provision during economic crises as a way of offloading the expensive social safety net onto civil society actors. This argument is a prime example of Brooke’s ability to take something scholars have long suspected and provide the hard historical evidence to show it.

The book’s most novel contribution comes in answer to the second question: why the Brotherhood’s service activities have produced an electoral di

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