Dizionario di Politica

Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: The entry considers clientelism in three different contexts: traditional society, aristocratic politics, and mass parties.
In traditional politics, clientelism dates back to the Roman Republic. It was a relation among individuals of different status, set in the framework of the patriarchal family as the key social unit. This relation was both economic and political. It linked an individual of the highest status, a patronus, with lower-status individuals, often released serfs or immigrants.
Clientelism in many cases survived the establishment of structures of modern political society (elections, parliaments and parties). Modern clientelism tends to conform to the formal political system-elite-based systems tend to produce aristocratic clientelism, while democratic regimes based on mass suffrage see the rise of mass-party clientelism. In this latter type of clientelism, professional politicians offer public resources (offices, jobs, licenses and so on) in exchange for legitimacy and support (electoral consensus). In recent times, clientelism has served as a means of countering the political fragmentation of the middle-class.