Dictionnaire Constitutionnel

Authors: Duhamel & Mény
Summary: Clientelism is a political practice or relationship between a politician and a client. It is marked by relations that are personal rather than institutional, unequal because the parties have unequal control of resources, and based on exchange rather than authority. The nature of the resources exchanged, the status and inequality of the parties, and the degree of dependence, are all variable.
Based on personal relationships, clientelism is a mode of social exchange that opposes itself it to the rule of law and economic exchange. It can encourage the growth of cliques and factions that may to a greater or lesser degree harm politics and governance. It can be checked by law, but the law itself may be subverted by clientelism.
Clientelism occurs at all levels of society, and in all societies. It is a staple of the politics of traditional societies and developing nations, but it is far from absent from developed nations, including France, where it is found at both the local and the national levels.