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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 2: Elements of Theory


There is an assumption throughout the whole of their recent work that in the hands of sociologists historical evidence can easily be made to yield the secrets which it refuses to historians. Hence the embarrassingly ambitious – and to a historian embarrassingly crude – treatises on society in general, property in general, class in general, which are produced by sociologists on the basis of evidence, originally collected by historians. Hence, also, the attempts to wring from historical facts theoretical lessons, lessons which send shivers up the historian’s spine for the violence they do to facts, the simplicities they impose upon life.

Michael M. Postan80

A historian who looks into the subject of informal systems of power faces problems he has probably not previously encountered, ones which anthropologists, sociologists and political scientists approach from different perspectives and with different methods (methods with which they are usually more experienced). Though they are all interested in man as a social being and thus in the institutions established by man, they rarely come together through the common object of research, and when they do it is most often in private contacts in the common rooms of Anglo-Saxon colleges and universities. Lately, however, this situation is changing, mainly due to substantial research being conducted by British and American historians, who better than anyone else are familiar with the results of studies conducted by sociologists and social anthropologists who talk in a language similar to their own.81 The issue of the language...

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