The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Science

Authors: Bogdanor
Summary: In just over 600 words, this entry describes clientelism's conceptual use, distinguishes between two different types of clientelism, and discusses when and where clientelism exists.
Clientelism describes the informal power relationships based on benefit exchange between those (individuals or groups) in unequal positions. Political scientists distinguish between two distinct types of clientelism: traditional and new. Traditional clientelism is structured vertically, and involves a personal, affective relationship between a patron's prestige and his or her client's devotion and gratitude. The new clientelism, however, has a more horizontal structure, and involves only tangible benefits, usually in the form of public resources--jobs, pensions, welfare--offered in exchange for votes. Patrons who control political organizations distribute these benefits to their clients, which can be groups like ethnic minorities or professional associations like the American Medical Association. The new clientelism functions primarily through the political machine and poltical bosses.
In one sense, clientelism is a method of consensus rule because it is based on particular interests and not collective solidarity. Thus, it emerges in different political systems at varying developmental stages, and the entry provides a variety of illustrative examples. In modern, industrialized countries like the United States, clientelism usually emerges from urbanization and immigration. Traditional clientelism does, however, still exist in the third world. Clientelism is also found in specific political subsystems like local governments and the bureaucracy.