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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 12: The Clientele Today on a Global Scale



One could argue that, in the politics of the future, patronal systems will play a greater role. It is important that people be made aware of this phenomenon and that it be the topic of broad discussion.

Hans-Heinrich Nolte1002

One again we have a matter that is – one might say – timeless and multicultural: as in ancient times, the parties to the dyad are not just people but also governments/states. This would represent a deviation from many definitions of clientelistic relations if it were not for the characteristic and personalistic conception of this relationship: Rome’s clients were “allies and friends” of Rome, and today’s heads of state and government (presidents, prime ministers) emphasize the “personal” friendship they maintain between themselves even when that friendship is evidently “lop-sided.”

We have seen how clients of the senatus populusque romani – “socii and friends of the Roman people” – could be rulers. With reference to the ancient world, we do not dig deeply into – indeed, we usually do not even ask – the question of who carried out the function of client. If he was a ruler, then the problem did not exist because a ruler could not be divided. But when a polis was involved, was the client then a collective, a community? Patronage among high Roman officials carried out on the cities, provinces and allies of Rome tied those officials with local elites. Municipal notables were more often clients of Roman officials than they were pa...

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