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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 5: The Modern State and its Variants


When we have duly acknowledged that all over Europe, England and Scotland, in any century of pre-industrial society, men sought lords to protect them and lords sought men to serve them, then lordship and service, within any society and from one society to another, become a subject of “infinite variety”, with the same endless and elusive fascination as Shakespeare saw in Cleopatra.

Jenny Wormald261

In order to associate the subject of clientele with Shakespeare and Cleopatra one must be born on the Shakespearean Island (Is it not true that Egypt entered into a clientelistic relationship with Rome, while Cleopatra entered into an entirely different kind of relationship with Antony?). Nonetheless I detect in the passage quoted above an accurate observation, namely that the phenomenon of the clientele is in some sense immortal, or rather is always revived, and its identity is concealed in its countless variants. Perhaps like womanhood?

The author of the above passage, writing about the period from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, showed that even north of the river Clyde the diversity of clientelistic relationships was significant; in the long eighteenth century, that variety grew wider. This is a matter of space and time; after all, informal systems of power were at work (the case of Scotland escapes this definition precisely because the patron-client system had been formalized) that filled gaps and niches in such different regimes as those in Castile, England and the Empire, not to mention the...

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