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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 8: The Clientele and Political Parties


“When they ask me to vote,” an old farmer said, “I ask who for, and when they tell me who for, I vote. And if they don’t ask me to vote I stay home and mind my own business.”667

Once he spoke of his clan chiefs when they would go with us to war, now they go with us to vote.668

What do we have between us to quarrel about? Better that you take, and I take, and we agree we each other.669

Tutti vogliono un posto di lavoro su basi clientelari.670

Has political clientelism become outdated? Does it exist today as a residuum on the margins of modern forms of rule, as a sign of political backwardness? Is it not a part of political life, not so much essential as natural and timeless? It is difficult to answer these questions because it would first be necessary to define all the features of political modernity. Max Weber’s vision in this regard – a Rechtsstaat – leaves little room for a positive answer to the last question and corresponded in large part to the German reality of his day. But in other undoubtedly advanced states – particularly in Great Britain – these issues are complicated.671

In this regard it is worth taking into consideration (though not to juxtapose Germany with Great Britain!) the above-mentioned distinction between modernization and development, as proposed by Jane and Peter Schneider with mainly Sicily in mind.

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