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Unequal Friendship

The Patron-Client Relationship in Historical Perspective

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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 11: The Third World: Unity and Diversity

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African countries are diverse, conditioned by climate, culture and politics, and lacking in the kind of durable mutual bonds that are so important to the identity of Europe. But for me Asia is even more enigmatic. Which is why I raise issues related to Asia only as an essayist, not as a monographist, and thus mainly as a fascinated reader of ethnological literature. The exotic (from a European observer’s point of view) mixes with the returning impression of déjà vu. Years ago, as I began reading in preparation for this work, I picked up a work by James C. Scott on the peasantry in South-East Asia in order to acquaint myself at the very beginning with a familiar topos. “There are districts in which the position of the rural population is that of a man standing permanently up to the neck in water, so that even a ripple is sufficient to drown him.” And as Robert Mandrou writes, “everyone knows the picture drawn by Taine, so true for the whole of the ancien régime: ‘the common people resemble a man walking in a lake with the water up to his mouth; the least depression in the bed of the lake, or the smallest wave, and he loses his footing, goes under, and drowns.’”967 So, is it the same everywhere? Hunger, poverty, oppression, no prospects for the future, no ties with the outside world: we detect such problems throughout all of history and over broad geographical...

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