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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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Chapter 1: The Clientele as the “Pornography of Politics”: Words and Their Meaning


Patronage is the pornography of politics, enticing to some, repulsive to others, justified as inevitable, condemned as immoral, a practice seldom considered a fit subject for polite discussion.

Jeffrey Simpson18

This book could well have been entitled “The Pornography of Politics.” Simpson, a Canadian political scientist, highlighted the particular attitude that scholars have held toward patronage-clientele phenomena, their fascination with such phenomena, along with their timidity, which has only recently been overcome.19 He stated that while some scholars accept clientelism as an inevitable phenomenon, others condemn it as immoral; earlier it was improper to write about this subject or, at any rate, to focus on it (just as in the case of pornography).20 The experiences of the twentieth century on the one hand, and the development and integration of the social sciences on the other, turned our attention toward topics that reached well beyond traditional textbook schemes. Before that, the legitimization of power, understood as the right to exercise such power, had aroused doubts only during periods of severe political crisis or revolution. Today, we see more clearly the intricacy and ambiguity of the notion of power. I draw a distinction between this notion’s ambiguity and its multiple meanings, because while in some countries it is the product of the experience with resistance against Communism (especially “Real Socialism”), in others countries where citizens were spared this experience and where the law meant (and still means) simply the law, the conflict between←17 | 18...

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