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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 10: Africa, Kings, Dictators and Citizens-Subjects


Africa is a concept that is mainly cartographic, much like Asia: Differences between regions stand out more than similarities. However, this does not mean that the Africanist has no concrete research tasks. The historian is struck by the great diversity of African lands, their inhabitants, and their various fates, but above all by their relationship with outside factors – Arab and European merchants, slave traders, and colonial powers. Within the continent itself, particularly in its interior, transportation and communication was – and remains – difficult. To all of this one must add ethnic differences (those that exist in fact, along with those that exist only in the collective consciousness), the multitude of languages, and the chasm between the world of the Maghreb and Black Africa. The continent is thus a collection rather than a syndrome of cases. More than one Africanist would surely disagree with me and might well be right in doing so, but my point of view is particular: I am in search of the rules and characteristics of clientelistic systems in widely various social and natural environments. One should regard what I present here as reflections on relationships that are clientelistic in nature, reflections carried out as a historiographic object conceived from the point of view of a European and a historian of Europe. I would not be able to look upon Europe from a sub-Saharan perspective, which is something both understandable and rarely admitted by whites. I do not claim that African issues are too important to...

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