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Unequal Friendship

The Patron-Client Relationship in Historical Perspective


Antoni Mączak

This book analyzes the patron-client relationship over both space and time. It covers such areas of the globe as Europe, Africa and Latin America, and such periods in time as ancient Rome, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Poland, as well as twentieth-century America. It also analyzes clientelism in U.S. policy toward the Vietnam War and in Richard J. Daley’s mayoral rule over Chicago. In his comparative approach the author makes broad use of theories from such fields as history, sociology, anthropology and linguistics while considering the global scale of the patron-client relationship and the immense role that clientelism has played in world history.

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Patronage is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, and that is Power.

Benjamin Disraeli1

I am afraid certain things will go on in the world for ever, whether we profit by them or not. And if I grant that patronage is sometimes a public evil, you must allow that it is often a private benefit.

Maria Edgeworth2

The reader deserves a few words of explanation regarding the content and form of this book. It is a work based on certain assumptions: that issues of power are comparable in time and space; that it is worth addressing the past and present with a common set of questions; that – more often than we would like to admit – we are held captive by a certain accepted language and a certain terminology; and that it is our task as scholars to tear down barriers that divide the academic disciplines. In part for these reasons, I did not – for the Polish version of this text – translate some of the quotes taken from foreign-language (mainly Anglo-American, but also German and French) academic literature and other sources.3 I am aware that this choice might make reading my text more difficult and that it might encourage readers to skim over the foreign-language texts, but the fact is that, in this book, semantics play a large role as early as the first chapter; I will often analyze the meaning of words and will draw...

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