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Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia

Author(s): James C. Scott


Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 66, No. 1 (Mar., 1972), pp. 91-113
Published by: American Political Science Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1959280
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Patron-ClientPolitics and
Political Change in Southeast Asia
JAMES C. SCOTT
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The analysis presented here is an effort to conflict has been, it hardly begins to exhaust
elaborate the patron-client model of association, the political patterns of Southeast Asia and Af-
developed largely by anthropologists, and to rica, let alone Latin America. If we are to ac-
demonstrate its applicability to political action count, say, for intra-ethnic politics or for pat,
in Southeast Asia. Inasmuch as patron-client terns of cooperation and coalition building
structures are not unique to Southeast Asia but among primordial groups, then the primordial
are much in evidence particularly in Latin model cannot provide us with much analytical
America, in Africa and in the less developed leverage.
portions of Europe, the analysis may possibly The need to develop a conceptual structure
have more general value for an understanding that would help explain political activity that
of politics in less developed nations. does not depend solely on horizontal or primor-
Western political scientists trying to come to dial sentiments is readily apparent in Southeast
grips with political experience in the Third Asia.2 In the Philippines, for example, class
World have by and large relied on either (or analysis can help us understand the recurrent
both) of two models of association and con- agrarian movements in Central Luzon (e.g.,
flict. One model is the horizontal, class model Sakdalistas and Huks) among desperate tenants
of conflict represented most notably by Marxist and plantation laborers; but it is of little help in
thought. It has had some value in explaining explaining how Magsaysay succeeded in wean-
conflict within the more modern sector of colo- ing many rebels away from the Huks, or, more
nial nations and in analyzing special cases in important, in analyzing the normal patterns of
which rural social change has been so cataclys- political competition between Philippine par-
mic as to grind out a dispossessed, revolution- ties. In Thailand, primordial demands may help
ary agrarian mass. By and large, however, its us discern the basis of dissident movements in
overall value is dubious in the typical nonindus- North and Northeast Thailand, but neither pri-
trial situation where most political groupings mordialism nor class analysis explains the intri-
cut vertically across class lines and where even cate pattern of the personal factions and coali-
nominally class-based organizations like trade tions that are at the center of oligarchic Thai
unions operate within parochial boundaries of
ethnicity or religion or are simply personal ve- tive Revolution," in Geertz, ed., Old Societies and
hicles. In a wider sense, too, the fact that class New States [New York: The Free Press of Glencoe,
1963]); and Max Gluckman (Custom and Conflict in
categories are not prominent in either oral or Africa [Oxford: Basil and Blackwell, 1963]).
written political discourse in the Third World 2 number of political studies of Southeast Asia
damages their a priori explanatory value. have dealt with factionalism or patron-client ties. The
The second model, and one which comes most outstanding is Carl Lande's Leaders, Factions,
and Parties: the Structure of Philippine Politics, Mono-
much closer to matching the "real" categories graph No. 6 (New Haven: Yale University-South-
subjectively used by the people being studied, east Asia Studies, 1964). For the Thai political sys-
emphasizes primordial sentiments (such as tem, Fred W. Riggs' Thailand: The Modernization of
ethnicity, language, and religion), rather than a Bureaucratic Polity (Honolulu: East-West Center
Press, 1966) and David A. Wilson's Politics in Thai-
horizontal class ties. Being more reflective of land (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962) pursue
self-identification, the primordial model natu- a similar line of analysis; and for Burma, see Lucian
rally helps to explain the tension and conflict W. Pye, Politics, Personality, and Nation-Building:
that increasingly occurred as these isolated, as- Burma's Search for Identity (New Haven: Yale Uni-
versity Press, 1962). Some notable attempts to do
criptive groups came into contact and com- comparable studies outside Southeast Asia are: Colin
peted for power. Like the class model, however Leys, Politicians and Policies: An Essay on Politics in
-although less well developed theoretically- Acholi Uganda 1962-1965 (Nairobi: East Africa Pub-
the primordial model is largely a conflict lishing House, 1967); Myron Weiner, Party-Building
in a New Nation: The Indian National Congress (Chi-
model and is of great value in analyzing hos- cago: University of Chicago Press, 1967); Paul R.
tilities between more or less corporate and as- Brass, Factional Politics in an Indian State (Berkeley
criptive cultural groupings.' Important as such and Los Angeles: University of California Press,
1965); Frederick G. Bailey, Politics and Social
' Two influential anthropologists who employ this Change: Orissa in 1959 (Berkeley and Los Angeles:
mode of analysis arc: Clifford Gecrtz ("The Integra- University of California Press, 1963).
91
92 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66
politics. The almost perpetual conflicts between Asia are often thoroughly penetrated by infor-
the central Burman state and its separatist hill mal patron-client networks that undermine the
peoples and minorities are indeed primordial, formal structure of authority. If we are to
communal issues, but communalism is of no grasp why a bureaucrat's authority is likely to
use in accounting for the intra-Burman strug- depend more on his personal following and ex-
gles between factions within the Anti-Fascist trabureaucratic connections than on his formal
People's Freedom League (AFPFL) or, later, post, or why political parties seem more like ad
within the military regime. Ethnicity and class hoc assemblages of notables together with their
do carry us far in explaining racial hostilities entourages than arenas in which established in-
and intra-Chinese conflict in Malaya, but they terests are aggregated, we must rely heavily on
are less helpful when it comes to intra-Malay patron-client analysis. The dynamics of per-
politics or to interracial cooperation at the top sonal alliance networks are as crucial in the
of the Alliance party.3 day-to-day realities of national institutions as in
As these examples indicate, when we leave local politics; the main difference is simply that
the realm of class conflict or communalism, such networks are more elaborately disguised
we are likely to find ourselves in the realm of by formal facades in modern institutions.
informal power groups, leadership-centered In what follows, I attempt to clarify what pa-
cliques and factions, and a whole panoply of tron-client ties are, how they affect political
more or less instrumental ties that characterize life, and how they may be applied to the dy-
much of the political process in Southeast Asia. namics of Southeast Asian politics. After 1)
The structure and dynamics of such seemingly defining the nature of the patron-client link and
ad hoc groupings can, I believe, be best under- distinguishing it from other social ties, the pa-
stood from the perspective of patron-client re- per 2) discriminates among different varieties
lations. The basic pattern is an informal cluster of patron-client bonds and thereby establishes
consisting of a power figure who is in a position some important dimensions of variation, and
to give security, inducements, or both, and his 3) examines both the survival of and the trans-
personal followers who, in return for such bene- formations in patron-client links in Southeast
fits, contribute their loyalty and personal assis- Asia since colonialism and the impact of major
tance to the patron's designs. Such vertical pat- social changes (such as the growth of markets,
terns of patron-client linkages represent an im- the expanded role of the state, and so forth) on
portant structural principle of Southeast Asian the content of these ties.
politics.
Until recently the use of patron-client analy- I. The Nature of Patron-Client Ties
sis has been the province of anthropologists, The Basis and Operation of Personal Exchange.
who found it particularly useful in penetrating While the actual use of the terms "patron" and
behind the often misleading formal arrange- "client" is largely confined to the Mediter-
ments in small local communities where inter- ranean and Latin American areas, comparable
personal power relations were salient. Terms relationships can be found in most cultures and
which are related to patron-client structures are most strikingly present in preindustrial na-
in the anthropological literature-including tions. The patron-client relationship-an ex-
"clientelism," "dyadic contract," "personal net- change relationship between roles-may be de-
work," "action-set"-reflect an attempt on the fined as a special case of dyadic (two-person)
part of anthropologists to come to grips with ties involving a largely instrumental friendship
the mosiac of nonprimordial divisions. Infor- in which an individual of higher socioeconomic
mal though such networks are, they are built, status (patron) uses his own influence and re-
they are maintained, and they interact in ways sources to provide protection or benefits, or
that will permit generalization. both, for a person of lower status (client) who,
Although patron-client analysis provides a for his part, reciprocates by offering general
solid basis for comprehending the structure and support and assistance, including personal ser-
dynamics of nonprimordial cleavages at the vices, to the patron.4
local level, its value is not limited to village
studies. Nominally modern institutions such as 4There is an extensive anthropological literature
bureaucracies and political parties in Southeast dealing with patron-client bonds which I have relied
on in constructing this definition. Some of the most
3 Class as well as ethnicity is relevant to Malay- useful sources are: George M. Foster, "The Dyadic
Chinese conflict, since the different economic structure Contract in Tzintzuntzan: Patron-Client Relation-
of each community places them in conflict. Many a ship," American Anthropologist, 65 (1963), 1280-
rural Malay experiences the Chinese not only as pork- 1294; Eric Wolf, "Kinship, Friendship, and Patron-
eating infidels but as middlemen, money lenders, Client Relations," in Michael Banton, ed., The Social
shopkeepers, etc.-as the cutting edge of the capitalist Anthropology of Complex Societies, Association of
penetration of the countryside. Applied Social Anthropology Monograph #4 (Lon-
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 93

In the reciprocity demanded by the relation- arise? It is based, as Peter Blau has shown in
ship each partner provides a service that is val- his work, Exchange and Power in Social Life,8
ued by the other. Although the balance of bene- on the fact that the patron often is in a position
fits may heavily favor the patron, some reci- to supply unilaterally goods and services which
procity is involved, and it is this quality which, the potential client and his family need for
as Powell notes, distinguishes patron-client their survival and well being. A locally domi-
dyads from relationships of pure coercion or nant landlord, for example, is frequently the
formal authority that also may link individuals major source of protection, of security, of em-
of different status.5 A patron may have some ployment, of access to arable land or to educa-
coercive power and he may also hold an official tion, and of food in bad times. Such services
position of authority. But if the force or au- could hardly be more vital, and hence the de-
thority at his command are alone sufficient to mand for them tends to be highly inelastic; that
ensure the compliance of another, he has no is, an increase in their effective cost will not di-
need of patron-client ties which require some minish demand proportionately. Being a mo-
reciprocity. Typically, then, the patron operates nopolist, or at least an oligopolist, for critical
in a context in which community norms and needs, the patron is in an ideal position to de-
sanctions and the need for clients require at mand compliance from those who wish to share
least a minimum of bargaining and reciprocity; in these scarce commodities.
the power imbalance is not so great as to permit Faced with someone who can supply or de-
a pure command relationship. prive him of basic wants, the potential client in
Three additional distinguishing features of theory has just four alternatives to becoming
patron-client links, implied by the definition, the patron's subject.9 First he may reciprocate
merit brief elaboration: their basis in inequal- with a service that the patron needs badly
ity, their face-to-face character, and their dif- enough to restore the balance of exchange. In
fuse flexibility. All three factors are most ap- special cases of religious, medical, or martial
parent in the ties between a high-status land- skills such reciprocation may be possible, but
lord and each of his tenants or sharecroppers in the resources of the client, given his position in
a traditional agrarian economy-a relationship the stratification, are normally inadequate to re-
that serves, in a sense, as the prototype of pa- establish an equilibrium. A potential client may
tron-client ties.6 also try to secure the needed services elsewhere.
First, there is an imbalance in exchange be- If the need for clients is especially great, and if
tween the two partners which expresses and there is stiff competition among patron-suppli-
reflects the disparity in their relative wealth, ers, the cost of patron-controlled services will
power, and status. A client, in this sense, is be less.10 In most agrarian settings, substantial
someone who has entered an unequal exchange local autonomy tends to favor the growth of
relation in which he is unable to reciprocate local power monopolies by officials or landed
fully. A debt of obligation binds him to the pa- gentry. A third possibility is that clients may
tron.7 How does this imbalance in reciprocity coerce the patron into providing services. Al-
though the eventuality that his clients might
turn on him may prompt a patron to meet at
don: Tavistock Publications, 1966), pp. 1-22; J. Camp- least the minimum normative standards of ex-
bell, Honour, Family, and Patronage (Oxford: Claren- change,11 the patron's local power and the ab-
don Press, 1964); John Duncan Powell, "Peasant So-
ciety ...," p. 412, Carl Land6, Leaders, Factions and
Parties ...," Alex Weingrod, "Patrons, Patronage, pine Values, Institute of Philippine Culture Papers,
and Political Parties," Comparative Studies in Society No. 2 (Quezon City: Aleneo de Manila Press, 1964).
and History, 10 (July, 1968), pp. 1142-1158. 8 Peter M. Blau, Exchange and Power in Social Life
3 Powell, "Peasant Society and Clientelist Politics," (New York: Wiley, 1964), pp. 21-22. Blau's discus-
American Political Science Review, 64 (June, 1970), sion of unbalanced exchange and the disparities in
412. power and deference such imbalance fosters is di-
6 Another comparable model, of course, is the lord- rectly relevant to the basis of patron-client relation-
vassal link of high feudalism, except in this relation- ships.
ship the mutual rights and obligations were of an al- 9These general alternatives are deduced by Blau
most formal, contractual nature. Most patron-client (p. 118) and are intended to be exhaustive.
ties we will discuss involve tacit, even diffuse stan- '0Later, we will examine certain conditions under
dards of reciprocity. Cf. Ruston Coulborn, ed., Feud- which this may actually occur.
alism in History, (Princeton: Princeton University '"There is little doubt that this last resort usually
Press, 1956). acts as a brake on oppression. The proximate causes
In most communities this sense of obligation is a for many peasant uprisings in medieval Europe dur-
strong moral force, backed by informal community ing hard times often involved revocation of small
sanctions that help bind the client to the patron. A rights granted serfs by their lords-e.g., gleaning
good account of how such feelings of debt reinforce rights, use of the commons for pasturage, hunting and
social bonds in the Philippines is Frank Lynch's de- fishing privileges, reduction of dues in bad crop years
scription of utang nla loob in Four Readings in Philip- -rights which offered a margin of security. Such re-
94 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66

sence of autonomous organization among his group action. In the typical agrarian patron-
clients make this unlikely. Finally, clients can client setting this capacity to mobilize a follow-
theoreticallydo without a patron'sservices alto- ing is crucial in the competition among patrons
gether. This alternativeis remote, given the pa- for regional preeminence. As Blau describes the
tron's control over vital services such as protec- general situation,
tion, land, and employment. The high-status members furnish instrumental
Affiliatingwith a patron is neither a purely assistance to the low-status ones in exchange for
coerced decision nor is it the result of unre- their respect and compliance, which help the high-
stricted choice. Exactly where a particularpa- status members in their competition for a dominant
tron-clientdyad falls on the continuumdepends position in the group.1
on the four factors mentioned.If the client has A second distinguishing feature of the pa-
highly valued services to reciprocatewith, if he tron-client dyad is the face-to-face, personal
can choose among competing patrons, if force quality of the relationship. The continuing pat-
is availableto him, or if he can managewithout tern of reciprocity that establishes and solidifies
the patron's help-then the balance will be a patron-client bond often creates trust and
more nearly equal. But if, as is generally the affection between the partners. When a client
case, the client has few coercive or exchange needs a small loan or someone to intercede for
resourcesto bring to bear againsta monopolist- him with the authorities, he knows he can rely
patron whose services he desperatelyneeds, the on his patron; the patron knows, in turn, that
dyad is more nearly a coercive one.12 "his men" will assist him in his designs when he
The degree of compliance a client gives his needs them.'5 Furthermore, the mutual expec-
patron is a direct function of the degree of im- tations of the partners are backed by commu-
balance in the exchange relationship-of how nity values and ritual.
dependentthe client is on his patron'sservices. In most contexts the affection and obligation
An imbalance thus creates a sense of debt or invested in this tie between nonrelatives is ex-
obligation on the client's part so long as it pressed by the use of terms of address between
meets his basic subsistence needs and repre- partners that are normally reserved for close
sents, for the patron,a "'store of value'-social kin. The tradition of choosing godparents in
credit that . . . (the patron) can draw on to
Catholic nations is often used by a family to
obtain advantages at a later time."'13 The pa-
create a fictive kinship tie with a patron-the
tron's domination of needed services, enabling godfather thereby becoming like a brother to
him to build up savings of deference and com- the parents.'6 Whether the model of obligation
pliance which enhance his status, and repre- established is father-son, uncle-nephew, or el-
sents a capacity for mobilizing a group of sup- der-younger brother, the intention is similar: to
porters when he cares to. The larger a patron's establish as firm a bond of affection and loyalty
clientele and the more dependent on him they as that between close relatives. Thus while a
are, the greater his latent capacity to organize patron and client are very definitely alive to the
instrumental benefits of their association, it is
volts, even though they generally failed, served as an not simply a neutral link of mutual advantage.
object lesson to neighboring patrons. Cf. Friedrich
Engels, The Peasant War in Germany (New York: On the contrary, it is often a durable bond of
International Publishers, 1966); Norman Cohn, The genuine mutual devotion that can survive se-
Pursuit of the Millennium (New York: Harper, 1961); vere testing.
and E. B. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels (New York: The face-to-face quality of the patron-client
Norton, 1959).
1Blau, Exchange and Power in Social Life, pp. dyad, as well as the size of the patron's re-
119-120, makes this point somewhat differently: "The source base, limits the number of direct active
degree of dependence of individuals on a person who ties a single patron can have.'7 Even with vast
supplies valued services is a function of the difference
between their value and that of the second best al- 14
Blau, p. 127.
ternative open to them." The patron may, of course, ':The classic analysis of the functions of gift-giving
be dependent himself on having a large number of (prestation) in creating alliances, demonstrating su-
clients, but his dependence upon any one client is periority, and renewing obligations, is Marcel Mauss,
much less than the dependence of any one client upon The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Ar-
him. In this sense the total dependence of patron and chaic Societies (Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press of
client are similar, but almost all the client's depend- Glencoe, 1954).
ence is focused on one individual, whereas the patron's 16 Sidney Mintz and Eric Wolf, "An Analysis of
dependence is thinly spread (like that of an insur- Ritual Co-Parenthood (Compadrazgo)," Southwestern
ance company-Blau, p. 137) across many clients. Cf. Journal of Anthropology 6 (Winter, 1948) pp. 425-
Godfrey and Monica Wilson, The Analysis of Social 437.
Change; Based on Observations in Central Africa 7Carl Land6, "Networks and Groups in Southeast
(Cambridge: The University Press, 1945), pp. 28, 40. Asia: Some Observations on the Group Theory of
"Blau, p. 269. Politics," Unpublished manuscript (March, 1970), p. 6.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 95

resources, the personal contact and friendship greater calculation of benefits and the inequal-
built into the link make it highly unlikely that ity that typifies patron-client exchange.
an active clientele could exceed, say, one hun-
dred persons. The total following of a given pa- The Distinctiveness of the Patron. The role of
tron may be much larger than this, but nor- patron ought to be distinguished from such role
mally all except 20-30 clients would be linked designations as "broker," "middleman," or
to the patron through intermediaries. Since we "boss" with which it is sometimes confounded.
are dealing with positive emotional ties (the ra- Acting as a "broker" or "middleman"-terms
tio of "calculation" to affection may of course which I shall use interchangeably-means
vary), a leader and his immediate entourage serving as an intermediary to arrange an ex-
will be comparatively small. change or transfer between two parties who
The third distinctive quality of patron-client are not in direct contact. The role of middle-
ties, one that reflects the affection involved, is man, then, involves a three party exchange in
that they are diffuse, "whole-person" relation- which the middleman functions as an agent and
ships rather than explicit, impersonal-contract does not himself control the thing transferred.
bonds. A landlord may, for example, have a A patron, by contrast, is part of a two-person
client who is connected to him by tenancy, exchange and operates with resources he him-
friendship, past exchanges of services, the past self owns or directly controls.20 Finally, the
tie of the client's father to his father, and ritual terms "middleman" and "broker" do not spe-
coparenthood. Such a strong "multiplex" rela- cify the relative status of the actor to others in
tion, as Adrian Mayer terms it,"' covers a wide the transaction, while a patron is by definition
range of potential exchanges. The patron may of superior rank to his client.
very well ask the client's help in preparing a Important as this distinction is, it is easily
wedding, in winning an election campaign, or lost sight of for two reasons. First, it is not al-
in finding out what his local rivals are up to; ways a simple task to determine if someone
the client may approach the patron for help in personally controls the resources he uses to ad-
paying his son's tuition, in filling out govern- vance himself. What of the case in which a civil
ment forms, or in getting food or medicine servant distributed the subordinate posts in his
when he falls on bad times. The link, then, is a jurisdiction to create an entourage? Here it
very flexible one in which the needs and re- would seem that he was acting as a patron, in-
sources of the partners, and hence the nature of asmuch as the jobs he gave out were meant as
the exchange, may vary widely over time. Un- personal gifts from the store of scarce values he
like explicit contractual relations, the very dif- controlled and were intended to create a feeling
fuseness of the patron-client linkage contrib- of personal debt and obligation among recipi-
utes to its survival even during rapid social ents. The social assessment of the nature of the
change-it tends to persist so long as the two gift is thus crucial. If we were to find, on the
partners have something to offer one another.'9 other hand, that the civil servant was viewed as
Just as two brothers may assist each other in a someone who had acted as an agent of job-
host of ways, patron-client partners have a rela- seekers and put them in touch with a politician
tionship that may also be invoked for almost who controlled the jobs, then he would be act-
any purpose; the chief differences are the ing as a broker. It is only natural that many an
ambitious public official will seek to misrepre-
"8Adrian C. Mayer, "The Significance of Quasi- sent acts of brokerage or simple adherence to
Groups in the Study of Complex Societies," in Michael the rules as personal acts of patronage, thereby
Banton, ed., The Social Anthropology of Complex So- building his following.21 To the extent that he
cieties, pp. 97-122. Mayer would call a short-term,
contractual interaction that was limited in scope a 20
A broker does, in a real sense have a resource:
simplex tie. namely, connections. That is, the broker's power-his
19In another sense the patron-client dyad is fragile. capacity to help people-is predicated on his ties with
Since it is a diffuse, noncontractual bond, each part- third parties.
ner is continually on guard against the possibility that 21 U.S. Congressmen spend a good portion of their
the other will make excessive demands on him, thus time trying to seize personal credit for decisions which
exploiting the friendship. A patron may, for example, benefit their constituents whether or not they had any-
prefer to hire an outsider for an important job be- thing to do with the decision-as broker or patron.
cause he can then contractually insist that the work For similar reasons, cabinet ministers in Malaysia and
be of top quality. With a client, it would be a delicate elsewhere have travelled about the country with gov-
matter to criticize the work. As in friendship, "the ernment checks in hand, making grants to mosques,
diffuseness of the [patron-client] obligation places a temples, and charitable groups in a way that will dra-
corresponding demand for self-restraint on the parties matize the largesse as an act of personal patronage.
if the relationship is to be maintained." William A. Every government decision that benefits someone repre-
Gamson, Power and Discontent (Homewood, Illinois: sents an opportunity for someone to use that act to
Dorsey, 1968), p. 167. enlarge the circle of those personally obligated to him.
96 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66

succeeds in representinghis act as a personal common." A "cacique"or caudillo " may act
act of generosity,he will call forth that sense of as patron to a number of clients but he typi-
personal obligation that will bind his subordi- cally relies too heavily on force and lacks the
nates to him as clients.22 traditional legitimacy to function mainly as a
A second potential source of confusion in patron. At best, a caciqe or caudillo may, like
this distinctionis that the terms designateroles a boss, be a marginalspecial case of a patron,
and not persons, and thus it is quite possible providing that a portion of his following is be-
for a simle individual to act both as a broker neath him socially and bound to him in part by
and a patron. Such a role combination i not affected ties. Over time, however, a metamor-
only possible,but is empiricallyquite common. phosis may occur. Just as the successful brew-
When a local landowningpatron, for example, ery owner of late 18th century England might
becomesthe head of his village's political party well anticipatea peeragefor his son, the caciqe
he is likely to become the middlemanbetween who today imposeshis rule by force may do well
many villagers and the resourcescontrolled by enough to set his son up as a landowner,whose
higher party officials. In this case he may have high status and legitimacy strengthenshis role
clients for whom he also serves as broker. The as patron.
diffuse claims of the patron-clienttie actually
make it normal for the patron to act as a bro- Patron and Clients as Distinctive Groupings.
ker for his clients when they must deal with To this point, the discussion has centered on
powerful third parties-much as the patron the natureof the single link betweenpatronand
saint in folk Catholicismwho directly helps his client If we are to broaden the analysis to in-
devotees while also acting as their broker with clude the largerstructuresthat are relatedby the
the Lord.23 If on the other hand, the political joining of many such links, a few new terms
party simply gives the local patron direct con- must be introduced. First, when we speak of
trol of its programs and grants in the area, it a patron's immediate following-those clients
thereby enhances his resources for becoming a who are directly tied to him-we will refer to
paton on a larger scale and eliminatesthe need a patron-clientcluster. A second term, enlargf
for brokerage. ing on the cluster but still focusing on one per-
Patrons ought finally to be differentated son and his vertical links is the patron-client
from other partly related terms for leadership pyramid. This is simply a vertical extension
such as "boss,""caudillo,' or "cacique."?C9BSS1downward of the cluster in which linkages are
is a designationat once vague and richly con- introduced beyond the first-order.25Below are
notative. Although a boss may often function typical representationsof such links.
as a patron,the termaitself implies (a) that he is
the most powerful man in the arena and (b) Patron-ClientCluster Patron-Client Pyramid
that his power rests more on the inducements
and sanctions at his disposal than on affection
or status.As distinct from a patronwho may or
may not be the supremelocal leader and whose
leadershiprests at least partly on rank and af-
fection, the boss is a secular leader par excel-
lence who depends almost entirely on palpable
inducementsand threatsto move people. As we Although vertical ties are our main concern, we
shall show later, a settled agrarianenvironment will occasionally want to analyze horizontal
with a recognized status hierarchy is a typical dyadic ties, say, between two patronsof compa-
setting for leadershipby patrons,while a more rable standing who have made an alliance,
mobile, egalitarianenvironmentis a typical set- Such alliances often form the basis of factional
Eng for the rise of bosses. The final two terms, systems in local politics. Finally, patron-client
"caudillo"and "cacique" are most commonly
used in Latin America to designatethe regional For good descriptions of both types of leadership,
-often rural-bosses. Again the implication is see Eric R. Wolf and E. C. Hansen, "Caudillo Poi
that coercion is a main pillar of power, and in tics: A Structural Analysis," Comparative Studies li
the case of the caudillo, a personal following is Society and History, 9, 2 (January, 1967), 168-179
and Paul Friedrich, "The of a Cacique,"
I.egtimacy
in Marc J. Swartz, ed., Local Level Politics: Social
2XAnd it naturally follows that in underdeveloped and Cultural Perspective (Chcago: Aldine 1968),
tries, where the patrimonial view of office is pp. 243-269.
especially strong, a public post could be a client- 'e terms "cluster," "network," and "firs and
creang resource. "aead" orders are adapted froi a somewhat similar
2 Foster, "The Dyadic Contract in Tzintzuntzan;" usage by J. A. Barnes, "Netorks and Political Pr
pp. 1280.4294. "csea" in Swartz, ed, pp. 107-130.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 97

networks are not ego-focused but refer to the 4. Compositionof Group:Patron-clientclus-


overall pattern of patron-client linkages (plus ters, because of the way they are created,
horizontal patron alliances) joining the actors are likely to be more heterogeneous in
in a given area or community. class composition than categorical groups
Patron-client clusters are one of a number of which are based on some distinctive qual-
ways in which people who are not close kin ity which members share. By definition,
come to be associated. Most alternative forms patron-client pyramids join people of dif-
of association involve organizing around cate- ferent status rankings while categorical
gorical ties, both traditional-such as ethnicity, groups may or may not be homogeneous
religion, or caste-and modern-such as occu- in status.
pation or class-which produce groups that are 5. Corporateness of Group: In a real sense a
fundamentally different in structure and dy- patron-client cluster is not a group at all
namics. The special character of patron-client but rather an "action-set" that exists be-
clusters stems, I believe, from the fact that, un- cause of the vertical links to a common
like categorically-based organizations, such leader-links which the leader may acti-
clusters a) have a basis of membership that is vate in whole or in part.28 Followers are
specific to each link,26 and b) are based on in- commonly not linked directly to one an-
dividual ties to a leader rather than on shared other and may, in fact, be unknown to
characteristics or horizontal ties among follow- each other. An organized categorical
ers. group, by contrast, is likely to have hori-
Some other important distinctions between zontal links that join members together so
categorical and patron-client groupings follow that it is possible to talk of a group exis-
from these particular principles of organiza- tence independent of the leader.
tion. Here I rely heavily on Carl Lande's more
elaborate comparisons between dyadic follow- Although this listing is not exhaustive, it
ings and categorical groups.27 does illustrate the special character of patron-
client networks. Bearing in mind the generic
1. Members' Goals: Clients have particular- qualities of these ties, we now turn to the range
istic goals which depend on their personal of variation within the genus.
ties to the leader, whereas categorical
group members have common goals that II. Variation in Patron-Client Ties
derive from shared characteristics which One could potentially make almost limitless
distinguish them from members of other distinctions among patron-client relationships.
such groups. The dimensions of variation considered here
2. Autonomy of Leadership: A patron has are selected because they seem particularly rel-
wide autonomy in making alliances and evant to our analytical goal of assessing the
policy decisions as long as he provides for central changes in such ties within Southeast
the basic material welfare of his clients, Asia. Similar distinctions should be germane to
whereas the leader of a categorical group the analysis of other preindustrial nations as
must generally respect the collective inter- well.
est of the group he leads.
3. Stability of Group: A patron-client cluster,
being based on particularistic vertical The Resource Base of Patronage. A potential
links, is highly dependent on its leader's patron assembles clients on the basis of his abil-
skills and tends to flourish or disintegrate ity to assist them. For his investment of assets,
depending on the resources of the leader the patron expects a return in human resources
and the satisfaction of individual client -in the form of the strength of obligation and
demands. A categorical group, by con- the number of clients obligated to him. The re-
trast, is rooted more firmly in horizontally source base or nature of the assets a patron has
shared qualities and is thus less dependent at his disposal can vary widely. One useful ba-
for its survival on the quality of its lead- sis for distinguishing among resources is the di-
ership and more durable in its pursuit of rectness with which they are controlled. Pa-
broader, collective (often policy) inter- trons may, in this sense, rely on a) their own
ests. knowledge and skills, b) direct control of per-
sonal real property, or c) indirect control of
the property or authority of others (often the
I Mayer, "The
Significance of Quasi-Groups . . ." public). The resources of skill and knowledge
p. 109. are most recognizable in the roles of lawyer,
27Land, "Networks and Groups . . ." (unpublished
manuscript), pp. 6-12. -'Mayer, p. 110.
98 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66
doctor, literates, local military chief, teacher- we should add private-sector office-holders in
religious or secular. Those equipped with these the private sector such as plantation managers,
skills control scarce resources than can enhance purchasing agents, and hiring bosses, who may
the social status, health, or material well being also use their discretionary authority to nurture
of another. Inasmuch as such resources rest on a clientele.
knowledge, they are less perishable than more Indirect, office-based property is least secure
material sources-although the time of the ex- in many respects, as its availability depends on
pert is limited-and can be used again and continuity in a position that is ultimately given
again without being diminished. Such resources or withdrawn by third parties. A landlord will
are relatively, but not entirely, secure. In the usually retain his local base whereas an office-
case of lawyers and literati, for example, the holder is likely to be swept out by a new victor
exchange price of their services depends respec- at the polls or simply by a power struggle
tively on the continued existence of a court sys- within the ruling group. In spite of the risks in-
tem and the veneration of a particular literary volved, these posts are attractive because the
tradition, both of which are subject to change. resources connected with many of them are far
The value of a local military chief's protection greater than those which an individual can
is similarly vulnerable to devaluation once the amass directly.
nation state has established local law and order. The categories of resources just discussed are
Reliance on direct control of real property is not mutually exclusive. It is common, for ex-
a second common means of building a clien- ample, for a patron to have a client who is obli-
tele. Traditionally, the typical patron controlled gated to him by being a tenant on his land and
scarce land. Those he permitted to farm it as also by having secured an agricultural loan
sharecroppers or tenants became permanently through his patron's chairmanship of the ruling
obligated to him for providing the means of party's local branch. The resources that cement
their subsistence. Any businessman is in a simi- a dyadic tie may thus be multiple-it is often a
lar position; as the owner of a tobacco factory, question of deciding which is the predominant
a rice mill, or a small store he is able to obli- resource. Much the same analysis can be made
gate many of those of lower status whom he of a patron-client cluster or network, since a
employs, to whom he extends credit, or with patron may have clients who are bound to him
whom he does business. This kind of resource, by quite different resources, and it is often im-
in general, is more perishable than personal portant to determine what the main resource is
skills. A landlord has only so many arable that holds the cluster together.
acres, a businessman only so many jobs, a
shopkeeper so much ready cash, and each must Resource Base of Clientage. As the other mem-
carefully invest those resources to bring the ber of a reciprocating pair, the client is called
maximum return. Like any real property, more- upon to provide assistance and services when
over, private real property is subject to seizure the patron requires them. The variation in the
or restrictions on its use. nature of such assistance is another means of
A third resource base available to the poten- distinguishing one patron-client dyad from an-
tial patron is what might be called indirect, other. Here one might want to differentiate:
office-based property. Here we refer to patrons (1) labor sevices and economic support, as
who build a clientele on the strength of their provided by a rent-paying tenant or employee,
freedom to dispense rewards placed in their (2) military or fighting duties, such as those
trust by some third party (parties). A village performed by members of a bandit group for
headman who uses his authority over the distri- their chief, and (3) political services such as
bution of communal land to the poor or the canvassing or otherwise acting as an agent of a
distribution of corvee labor and taxation bur- politician. Within the "political service" cate-
dens in order to extend his personal clientele gory one may wish to separate electoral ser-
would be a typical example of traditional office- vices from nonelectoral political help. I should
based patronship. One can classify similarly add here that the term "clients" can refer to
office-holders in colonial or contemporary set- those who are in the middle of a patron-client
tings whose discretionary powers over employ- pyramid-being a client to someone higher up.
ment, promotion, assistance, welfare, licensing, and a patron to those below. In this case, a su-
permits, and other scarce values can serve as perior patron will be interested in his client's
the basis of a network of personally obligated potential services, but those services will in-
followers. Politicians and administrators who clude the size, skills, assets, and status of the
exploit their office in this way to reward clients client's own subordinate following.
while violating the formal norms of public con- Just as a patron-client dyad can be distin-
duct are, of course, acting corruptly. Finally, guished by the main resource base of clientage
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 99
so can a patron-client cluster be categorized by grow rapidly, and when he is in decline, that
the modal pattern of client services for the clus- same following will shrink rapidly, as clients
ter or pyramid as a whole. look for a more promising leader. The degree
of dependence on material incentives within a
Balance of Affective and Instrumental Ties. By following is, in principle, a quality one could
definition, instrumental ties play a major role in measure by establishing how much more than
the patron-client dyad. It is nonetheless possible their present material rewards a rival patron
to classify such dyads by the extent to which would have to offer to detach a given number
affective bonds are also involved in the relation- of another's clients.
ship. At one end of this continuum one might The affective-instrumental distinction just
place patron-client bonds which, in addition to made leads to a similar, but not identical, dis-
their instrumental character, are reinforced by tinction between the core and periphery of a
affective links growing, say, from the patron man's following. These categories actually are
and the client having been schoolmates, coming distributed along a continuum; at the periphery
from the same village, being distant relatives, of a man's following are those clients who are
or simply from mutual love. Comparable affec- relatively easy to detach while at the core are
tive rewards may also spring from the exchange followers who are more firmly bound to him.
of deference on the one hand and noblesse The periphery is composed of clients bound
oblige on the other in a settled agrarian status largely by instrumental rewards, while the core
network-rewards that have value beyond the is composed of clients linked by strong affective
material exchanges they often involve. At the ties, as well as clients who are attracted to a
other end of the spectrum lies a dyadic tie patron by such strong instrumental ties that
much closer to an almost neutral exchange of they seem unbreakable.30 This amounts, in
goods and services. The more purely coercive effect, to a distinction between a man's virtually
the relationship is and the less traditional legiti- irreducible following and his more or less fluc-
macy it has, the more likely that affective bonds tuating, "fair-weather" following. Patrons can
will be minimal. then be differentiated by the size of their core-
This distinction has obvious analytical value. following relative to their peripheral-following.
If we were to look at a patron's entire follow- A landlord or a businessman will generally
ing, we would be able to classify each vertical have a sizable core group composed both of his
bond acrording to the ratio of affective to in- friends, kin, etc., and of his tenants or employ-
strumental rewards involved. (one could, of ees. This nucleus is his initial following; his
course, do the same for horizontal alliances. clientele may grow larger, but it is unlikely to
Using this criterion we could identify a set of contract further than this durable core. A poli-
followers among whom the ratio of affective to tician or bureaucrat, on the other hand, unless
instrumental ties was relatively high, reflecting he is privately wealthy, is likely to have a com-
perhaps distant kinship, old village or neighbor- paratively smaller core group composed mostly
hood ties, or comparable bonds. The loyalty of of those with whom he has strong affective ties
this set of followers would be less dependent and, hence, a relatively large proportion of
upon a continued flow of material benefits, sim- "fair-weather" clients. The blows of fortune
ply because their loyalty is partly based on non- such a politician or administrator suffers are
material exchanges. As we move beyond this more likely to be instantly and fully reflected in
partly affective following to a patron's other a reduction of the size of his clientele, which is
supporters, the weight of instrumental, usually largely a calculating one. Politicians, and bu-
material, ties becomes relatively more impor- reaucrats, because they have smaller core fol-
tant. The nature of a man's following-the bal- lowings and because they can, through their
ance of affective to instrumental ties obligating office, often tap vast resources, are apt to have
his clients to him-can tell us something about meteoric qualities as patrons; the landholder,
its stability under different conditions. When a by contrast, is likely to cast a steadier, if dim-
patron increases his material resource base, it is mer, light.
his instrumental following that will tend to
Balance of Voluntarism and Coercion. There
29There is no contradiction, I believe, in holding are obvious and important differences in the de-
that a patron-client link originates in a power rela-
tionship and also holding that genuine affective ties gree of coercion involved in a patron-client
reinforce that link. Affective ties often help legitimate bond. At one end are the clients with virtually
a relationship that is rooted in inequality. For an ar- no choice but to follow the patron who directly
gument that, in contrast, begins with the assumption
that some cultures engender a psychological need for : F. G. Bailey uses the terms "core" and "support"
dependence, see Dominique 0. Mannoni, Prospero in much the same fashion: see his "Parapolitical Sys-
and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization (New tems," in Swartz, ed., Local-Level Politics, pp. 281-
York: Praeger, 1964). 294.
100 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66
controls their means of subsistence. Here one based on inducementswill be in danger if its
might place a tenant whose landlord provides leader'sincome or access to public funds is cut
his physical security, his land, his implements off.
and seed, in a society where land is scarce and
insecurity rife. Nearer the middle of this con- DurabilityOver Time. Patron-clientdyads may
tinuum would perhaps be the bonds between be rather ephemeral, or they may persist for
independent smallholders who depend on a long periods.32In a traditionalsetting they are
landlord for the milling and marketing of their likely to last until one of the partnershas died.
crops, for small loans, and for assistance with Knowing how durable such ties are can also
the police and administration. Such bonds are tell us something about the structure of com-
still based on inequality, but the client, because petition over time. Where dyads are persistent
he has some bargaining power, is not simply they tend to produce persistentfactional struc-
putty in his patron's hands. Finally, let us as- tures with some continuity in personnel over
sume that an electoral system has given clients time, at least stable clusters or pyramids that
a new resource and has spurred competition may recombine in a variety of ways but are
among patrons for followings that can swing constructedfrom the same components.Where
the election to them. In this case the inequality dyads are fragile, personal alignments may
in bargaining power is further reduced, and the undergoan almosttotal reorderingwithin a dec-
client emerges as more nearly an independent ade.
political actor whose demands will receive a Since patron-client clusters are based ulti-
full hearing from his patron. mately on power relations, they will endure
In general, the oppression of the client is best in a stable setting that preserves existing
greater when the patron's services are vital, power positions. A particularpatron will thus
when he exercises a monopoly over their distri- retain his clients as long as he continues to
bution, and when he has little need for clients dominate the supply of services they need. A
himself. The freedom of the client is enhanced patron is also likely to keep his followers if the
most when there are many patrons whose ser- scope of reciprocitythat binds them is greater.
vices are not vital and who compete with one That is, the more of the client's vital needs a
another to assemble a large clientele-say for patron can meet (i.e., if he can supply not only
electoral purposes. land and securitybut also influencewith the ad-
The greater the coercive power of the patron ministration, help in arranging mortgages or
vis-a-vis his client, the fewer rewards he must schooling, and so forth), the greater the ten-
supply to retain him. A patron in a strong posi- dency for the tie to be invoked frequently and
tion is more likely to employ sanctions-threats to endure over long periods. Compared with
to punish the client or to withdraw benefits he patrons who can provide only legal services,
currently enjoys-whereas a relatively weaker only financial help, or only educational advan-
patron is more likely to offer inducements- tages, the multiplex bond between patron and
promises to reward a client with benefits he client is a solid linkage that serves many needs;
does not now enjoyA' In each instance, supe- since it is more of a whole-persontie, it will be
rior control over resources is used to gain the called into action often.
compliance of followers, but the use of sanc-
tions indicates a higher order of power than the
use of inducements. Homogeneity of Following. A patron may have
Assessment of the coercive balance and of
a heterogeneousset of followers drawnfrom all
the ratio of sanctions to inducements can be walks of life, or he may have a following com-
made not only for a dyad but also for a patron- posed, say, of only his poor sharecroppersor
client cluster or pyramid. The cluster of a local only clerical subordinates in his office.33The
baron with a private army may be held intact proportionof a man's supporterswho share so-
by a mix of deference and. sanctions, while a cial characteristics and the salience of those
campaigning politician may build a cluster sim- social characteristicsto them constitute a mea-
ply with favors if he has no coercive power or sure of how homogeneous a following is. Since
traditional legitimacy. Each cluster or pyramid a patron, by definition,occupies a higher social
has its special vulnerability. The coercive clus- station than his clients, the greater the homo-
ter will be jeopardized by a breach of the pa- geneity in a following, the greater the latent
tron's local power monopoly, and a cluster 31Both J. A. Barnes, "Networks and Political Pro-
cess," in Swartz, pp. 107-130, and Powell, Peasant
3 Here I follow the distinctions made in Blau, Ex- Society . .. ., p. 413, discuss this variable.
change and Power in Social Life, pp. 115-118. Other 3 This variable thus relates not to a dyad but to the
power theorists have made the same distinction. following in a cluster or pyramid.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 101

shared interests among followers that might acteristic of the area's contemporary politics as
threaten the relationship. When a landed patron of its traditional politics. In one sense, the "style"
whose clients are his tenants, for example, sells of the patron-client link, regardless of its con-
off what had been common pasture land, all text, is distinctively traditional. It is particu-
his tenants are equally affected. Their shared laristic where (following Parsons) modern links
situation and the common experiences it pro- are universal; it is diffuse and informal where
vides create a potential for horizontal ties, modern ties are specific or contractual; and it
whereas a heterogeneous clientele lacks this produces vertically-integrated groups with shift-
potential. ing interests rather than horizontally-integrated
groups with durable interests. Despite their tra-
Field Variables. Occasionally, we will want ditional style, however, patron-client clusters
to describe and contrast configurations of pa- both serve as mechanisms for bringing together
tron-client clusters within a political arena individuals who are not kinsmen and as the
rather than dealing with a single cluster or building-blocks for elaborate networks of ver-
dyad. Four particularly useful distinctions in tical integration. They cannot, therefore, be
this respect are a) the degree of monopoly over merely dismissed as vestigial remains of archaic
local resources by a single patron, b) the de- structures but must be analyzed as a type of
gree of monopoly over links to other structures social bond that may be dominant in some con-
by a single patron, c) the density of patron- texts and marginal in others.
client linkages in the population,34 and d) the In my view, most of traditional and contem-
extent of differentiation between different pyra- porary Southeast Asia has met three necessary
mids and clusters. The first two variables are conditions for the continued vitality of patron-
self-explanatory and measure the degree of client structures: (1) the persistence of marked
dominance exercised by a patron over local and inequalities in the control of wealth, status, and
supralocal resources. "Density" refers to the power which have been accepted (until re-
proportion of a given population that is a part cently) as more or less legitimate; (2) the relax
of the patron-client network. In some situa- tive absence of firm, impersonal guarantees of
tions, for example, a large part of the lower physical security, status and position, or wealth,
classes may not actually have any vertical links and (3) the inability of the kinship unit to
of clientage to a patron. To gauge accurately serve as an effective vehicle for personal secu-
the explanatory power of patron-client politics rity or advancement.
in a political field requires that we know for The first condition is more or less self-evi-
how much of the population such ties are effec- dent. A client affiliates with a patron by virtue
tive. Finally, the degree of differentiation among of the patron's superior access to important
clusters is a means of discerning whether one goods and services. This inequality is an expres-
cluster looks pretty much like the next one or sion of a stratification system which serves as
whether many clusters are socioeconomically the basis for vertical exchange. Classically in
distinct. In the classical feudal situation, the Southeast Asia, the patron has depended more
pyramidal structure of one lord's small domain on the local organization of force and access to
was similar to that of his neighbor-the social office as the sinews of his leadership than upon
structure of the landscape resembled a repeti- hereditary status or land ownership. Inequali-
tive wallpaper pattern-and competition was ties were thus marked, but elite circulation
thus between almost identical units. In other tended to be comparatively high. With the pen-
circumstances, pyramids may be differentiated etration of colonial government and commer-
by predominant occupation, by institutional cialization of the economy, land ownership
affiliation, and so forth, so that the seeds of a made its appearance (especially in the Philip-
distinctive and perhaps durable interest have pines and Vietnam) as a major basis of patron-
been sown. age. At the same time access to colonial office
replaced to some extent victory in the previ-
m. Survival and Development of Patron-Client ously more fluid local power contests as the cri-
Ties in Southeast Asia terion for local patronage. Although land own-
ership and bureaucratic office have remained
A. Conditions for Survival
two significant bases of patronship in postcolo-
As units of political structure, patron-client nial Southeast Asia, they have been joined-
clusters not only typify both local and national and sometimes eclipsed as patronage resources
politics in Southeast Asia, they are also as char- -by office in political parties or military rank.
"My use of the term is adapted from Barnes, p. If inequities in access to vital goods were
117. alone sufficient to promote the expansion of pa-
102 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66
tron-client ties, such structures would predomi- given the limited power available to most tradi-
nate almost everywhere. A second, and more tional kingdoms. The greater that autonomy, or
significant, condition of patron-client politics is what might be called the localization of power,
the absence of institutional guarantees for an the more decisive patron-client linkages were
individual's security, status, or wealth. Where likely to be. In settings as diverse as much of
consensus has produced an institutionalized Latin America, feudal Europe, and precolonial
means of indirect exchange-one that is legally Southeast Asia, the localization of power was
based, uniformly enforced, and effective-im- pervasive and gave rise to networks of patron-
personal contractual arrangements tend to client bonds. From time to time in Southeast
usurp the place of personal reciprocity. A pa- Asia a centralizing kingdom managed to extend
tron-client dyad, by contrast, is a personal secu- its power over wide areas, but seldom for very
rity mechanism and is resorted to most often long or with a uniform system of authority. A
when personal security is frequently in jeop- typical Southeast Asian kingdom's authority
ardy and when impersonal social controls are weakened steadily with increasing distance
unreliable. In this context, direct personal ties from the capital city. Beyond the immediate en-
based on reciprocity substitute for law, shared virons of the court, the ruler was normally re-
values, and strong institutions. As Eric Wolf duced to choosing which of a number of com-
has noted, "The clearest gain from such a (pa- peting petty chiefs with local power bases he
tron-client) relation . . . is in situations where would prefer to back.A7 Such chiefs retained
public law cannot guarantee adequate protec- their own personal following; their relationship
tion against breaches of non-kin contracts."35 to the ruler was one of bargaining as well as
It is important to recognize the unenviable deference; and they might back a rival claimant
situation of the typical client in less developed to the throne or simply defy demands of the
nations. Since he lives in an environment of scar- court when they were dissatisfied with their pa-
city, competition for wealth and power is seen tron's behavior. Thus, the political structure of
as a zero-sum contest in which his losses are traditional Southeast Asia favored the growth
another's gain and vice-versa.36 His very sur- of patron-client links, inasmuch as it was neces-
vival is constantly threatened by the caprice of sary for peasants to accommodate themselves
nature and by social forces beyond his control. to the continuing reality of autonomous per-
In such an environment, where subsistence needs sonal authority at almost all levels.
are paramount and physical security uncertain, The localization of power is in many senses
a modicum of protection and insurance can as striking a characteristic of contemporary as
often be gained only by depending on a superior of traditional Southeast Asia. As Huntington
who undertakes personally to provide for his aptly expressed it, "The most important political
own clients. Operating with such a slim margin, distinction among countries concerns not their
the client prefers to minimize his losses-at the form of government but their degree of govern-
cost of his independence-rather than to maxi- ment."38 Many of the outlying areas of South-
mize his gains by taking risks he cannot afford. east Asian nations, particularly the upland re-
When one's physical security and means of gions of slash-and-burn agriculturalists, are
livelihood are problematic, and when recourse only intermittently subject to central govern-
to law is unavailable or unreliable, the social ment control and continue to operate with
value of a personal defender is maximized. much autonomy. By far the most important
The growth of strong, institutional orders manifestation of the localization of power,
that reduce the need for personal alliances was however, has occurred within the very bureau-
a rare occurrence-the Roman and Chinese cratic and political institutions that are associ-
imperial orders being the most notable excep- ated with a central state. The modern institu-
tions-until the 19th and 20th centuries, when tional framework is a relatively recent import
modem nation-states developed the technical in Southeast Asia; it finds minimal support
means to impose their will throughout their ter- from indigenous social values and receives only
ritory. Before that, however, the existence of a sporadic legal enforcement. With the exception
fair degree of local autonomy was inevitable, of North Vietnam and Singapore, where a por-
tion of the intelligentsia with modernizing ide-
IWolf, "Kinship, Friendship, and Patron-Client Re-
lations .....," p. 10.
* In this connection, see my Political Ideology in 3 See, for example, Edmund R. Leach, "The Fron-
Malaysia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), tiers of Burma," Comparative Studies in Society and
chapter 6; and for zero-sum conceptions among peas- History, 3 (October, 1960), 49-68.
ats, see George M. Foster, "Peasant Society and the 3 Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Chang-
Image of Limited Good," American Anthropologist, ing Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press,
65 (April, 1965), 293-315. 1968), p. 3.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 103

ologies and popular backing have taken power, much on their activities, villagers in traditional
these new institutions do not command wide Southeast Asia still had need of extrakin and
loyalty and must therefore fight for survival in extravillage contacts. They needed to secure
a hostile environment. The net effect of this marriage partners, to assure themselves protec-
fragile institutional order is to promote the tion and contacts for the limited but vital trade
growth of personal spheres of influence within carried on between villages, and finally to es-
ministries, administrative agencies, and parties. tablish an outside alliance in case a village
Sometimes the vertical links are strong (e.g., quarrel forced them to seek land and employ-
Thailand) and sometimes a high degree of de- ment elsewhere.40 If vertical dyadic ties were of
centralization or "sub-infeudation" occurs (as some value in the traditional context, they as-
in parliamentary Burma from 1955 to 1958). sumed a more decisive role in the colonial and
In either case, what replaces the institution are postcolonial periods. First, the commercializa-
elaborate networks of personal patron-client tion of the economy and the growth of markets
ties that carry on more or less traditional fac- enhanced the value of cooperative arrange-
tional struggles rather than operate as agents ments among nonkin. Both corporate kin
of a hierarchial organization. Patron-client pol- groups and corporate village structures had de-
itics are thus as much a characteristic of fac- pended on a certain level of economic autarchy
tion-ridden central institutions as of the geo- for their vitality-an autarchy which colonial
graphical periphery in these nations. economic policy quickly eroded. These corpo-
The third condition under which patron- rate structures (where they existed) tended "to
client bonds remain prominent relates directly lose their monopoly over resources and person-
to the capacity of such ties to foster coopera- nel in situations where land and labor became
tion among nonkin. As a mechanism for pro- free commodities."'41 As the communal land
tection or for advancement, patron-client dyads controlled by the village dwindled, as outsiders
will flourish when kinship bonds alone become came increasingly to own land in the village,
inadequate for these purposes. and as villagers increasingly worked for non-
Although kinship bonds are seldom com- kin, the value of patron-client links increased
pletely adequate as structures of protection and for all concerned.
advancement even in the simplest societies, they In traditional Southeast Asia, as in feudal
may perform these functions well enough to Europe, then, the inability of kindreds to pro-
minimize the need for nonkin structures. Such vide adequate protection and security fostered
is the case among small isolated bands of hunt- the growth of patron-client structures. The lim-
ers and gatherers, among self-sufficient, corpo- ited effectiveness of kindreds as units of coop-
rate lineages and within corporate villages."" eration and security was further reduced by the
None of these conditions, however, is particu- new structures and uncertainties of the colonial
larly applicable to Southeast Asian societies. economy. Within this new economy, the goals
The highland areas are inhabited by poorly in- of wealth, protection, power, and status could
tegrated minorities but only rarely are these mi- not be realized without outside links to nonkin
norities so isolated as to lack economic and po- (and often nonvillagers), and the establishment
litical ties with the larger society. Corporate lin- of these links, for the most part, followed the
eages, outside traditional Vietnam, are uncom- patron-client model.
mon in low-land Southeast Asis where bilateral The relative decline in the protective capac-
kinship systems lead to overlapping kindreds ity of kindreds (which, given the absence of
rather than mutually exclusive lineages. Fi- strong, predictable new institutions would
nally, corporate village structures (except in widen the scope of patron-client ties) acceler-
Java and perhaps Vietnam's Red River delta) ated the political transformation of the colonial
are not typical of Southeast Asia. The scope for and postcolonial period as well. Both adminis-
nonkin ties in general, and patron-client links tration and electoral politics created new politi-
in particular, has thus been quite wide through- cal units that did not generally coincide with
out the region. the kindred or with the traditional village. As
Even when government did not impinge
"Richard Downs, "A Kelantanese Village of Ma-
19Corporate villages are included here since they laya," in Julian H. Steward, ed., Contemporary
generally stress shared kinship links to a common an- Change in Traditional Societies, Vol. II: Asian Rural
cestor. Part of the corporate character of the Java- Societies (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois: University of
nese village was perhaps further reinforced as a con- Illinois Press, 1967), p. 147.
sequence of the collective exactions required by Dutch 41Wolf, "Kinship, Friendship, and Patron-Client Re-
colonial policy. "Sanctioned reciprocity" is probably a lations . . . " p. 5. For a brilliant account of the same
better term for village structures in Java and Tokin than process in England, see Karl Polanyi, The Great
"corporate." Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957).
104 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66

Gallin has shown for electoral politics in linked through their leaders who were clients of
Taiwan, the political vitality of the corporate an outside leader, the structure could look like
lineage is sapped by changes in the governing that in Figure A.
unit which no longer permit a single lineage to
dominate. The lineage thus loses much of the
material basis of its previous solidarity, and
new dyadic ties become the means by which
winning coalitions are built in the new unit.42
Political consolidation, like economic consoli-
communal communal
dation, beyond minimal kin and village units group group
can thus enlarge the potential role of such non-
kin structures as patron-client clusters. Figure A
Considering all three criteria, Southeast
Asian states, like most traditional nations, sat-
isfy most conditions for the survival of patron- More often in Southeast Asia, however, the
client structures as a common means of cooper- second situation prevails in which a number of
ation. First, the disparities in power and status patrons with separate followings within the
that form the basis of this kind of exchange same communal group compete for the most
have, if anything, become more marked since advantageous links to the outside. A simple
the colonial period. Second, nonkin structures representation of this pattern is presented in
of cooperation have always been important in Figure B, in which two patrons are linked as
the complex societies of Southeast Asia and
have become more significant because of the
new economic and political dependencies intro-
duced by colonialism and nationhood. Finally,
with the possible exceptions of Singapore and
North Vietnam, the nations of Southeast Asia
have not developed strong modem institutions
which would begin to undermine purely per-
sonal alliance systems with impersonal guaran-
tees and loyalties.
At this point in the argument, it is essential
to show how patron-client structures, as one
form of vertical cleavage, coexist with commu- Figure B
nalism, another form of vertical cleavage, in
Southeast Asia. If loyalty to an ethnic or reli- clients to an outside patron and thereby have
gious group is particularly strong it will mean established a working alliance against a third
that the only possible partners in most patron- patron in the same communal group who is
client dyads will be other members of the same linked to a different outside leader. Here, the
community. Since the community is a categori- communal group is rent by factionalism and
cal group which excludes some possible dyadic has multiple ties to the outside world.43 The
partnerships, it represents a different form of vertical links outside the communal group,
cleavage from patron-client links. Vertical however, are likely to be somewhat weaker or
dyadic bonds can, nonetheless, coexist with more tentative than links within the commu-
communal cleavage in at least three ways: 1) nity. This is so because all competing subordi-
as intercommunal patron-client ties above cor- nate patrons and their clientele fall within a
porate communities; 2) as intercommunal pa- communal unit which shares a potentially
tron-client ties above factionalized communi- strong interest; if the communal group as a
ties, and, 3) as intracommunal patron-client whole were threatened, the shared parochial
structures. First, when communal groups do links would serve as the basis for a unity that
deal corporately with the outside-as quite a might supersede any exterior patron-client
few small, highland tribes do in Southeast Asia links. The situation described in Figure B is
-we may get patron-client ties that join their only likely to arise, then, if there are no salient
leaders, as clients, to regional or national lead-
ers. If two distinct corporate communities were 43A combination of situations one and two would
occur when the tacit rules within a communal group
42Bernard Gallin, "Political Factionalism and Its allowed patron-client conflict but forbade the losing
Impact on Chinese Village School Organization in or weaker patrons within the communal group from
Taiwan," in Swartz, ed., pp. 377-400. maintaining ties to outside leaders.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 105

collective threats to the communal group as a waxed or waned depending on the continuing
whole. availability of resources and spoils which served
The mixture of communalism and patron- to knit together a following. Perhaps the most
client structures portrayed in Figures A and B striking feature of local patron leadership in
focuses on the extracommunal patron-client Southeast Asia was its fluidity and instability,
links that achieve a measure, however weak, of which contributed to a relatively high rate of
intercommunal integration. A third mixture of local elite circulation. In contrast to India,
communal and dyadic association focuses in- where hereditary office-holding and landhold-
stead on intracommunal politics alone. This ing provided somewhat greater continuity, the
would be represented by just the boxed portion typical local leader in Southeast Asia had put
of Figure B, which indicates that, even if com- together many of the necessary resources of
munal conflict is widespread, it may well be wealth, force, connections, and status on his
that the intracommunal politics of each con- own and could probably only promise his son
tending group is best described by the patron- a slight advantage in the next round. Two im-
client model. portant reasons for this oscillation in local power
The salience of communal feeling, especially are a) the weakness of the central state, which
in Malaysia, Burma, and Laos, but also in In- lacked either the force or durability to sustain
donesia and Vietnam makes such mixtures of and guarantee the continuation of local power
communalism and patron-client politics com- elites, and b) the relative ease with which clients
mon. Except at the apex of the political struc- in a slash-and-burn economy could, if dissatis-
ture where a leader may have leaders of smaller fied simply move to another area, thus under-
communal groups as his clients, most patrons mining their ex-patron's basis of power.44
have followings that are almost exclusively Patron-client systems have survived-even
drawn from their own community. Intercom- flourished-in both colonial and postindepen-
munal integration tends to take place near the dence Southeast Asia. There have been impor-
apex of the political structure with the base of tant changes, however. New resources for pa-
each communal pyramid remaining largely sep- tronage, such as party connections, develop-
arate. The links that represent this integration ment programs, nationalized enterprises, and
tend, moreover, to be fragile and to disintegrate bureaucratic power have been created. Patron-
in the face of a communitywide threat. Both client structures are now more closely linked to
communalism and patron-client links share the the national level with jobs, cash, and petty fa-
political stage, but patron-client structures are vors flowing down the network, and votes or
most prominent in periods of peace and stabil- support flowing upward. In the midst of this
ity. In addition, the process of politics within change, old style patrons still thrive. Highland
each communal group-in effect holding com- leaders, for example, still operate in a personal
munal affiliation constant-is usually best anal- capacity as patron/brokers for their people
yzed along patron-client lines. In nations such with lowland leaders. Landowners in the Philip-
as Thailand, the Philippines, and Cambodia, pines and elsewhere have used their traditional
which are comparatively homogeneous cultur- control of land and the tenants who farm it to
ally, there are few communal barriers to the win positions of local or regional party leader-
proliferation of patron-client linkages. Thus, ship. Whatever the particular form they take,
the patron-client model can be applied to those patron-client networks still function as the
nations in its "pure" form since communal af- main basis of alliance systems among nonkin
filiation is not important in creating discontinu- throughout Southeast Asia.
ous patron-client networks. The nature of patron-client bonds within
Southeast Asia has varied sharply from one pe-
B. The Transformation of Traditional riod to the next and from one location to an-
Patron-Client Ties other. Different resources have risen or plum-
1. The General Trend. The typical patron in meted in value as a basis of patronage depend-
traditional Southeast Asia was a petty local ing upon the nature of the political system:
leader. Unlike the representative of a corporate (See table on next page.)
kin group or a corporate village structure (rare
outside Vietnam and Java, respectively), the 44 See, for example, Edmund R. Leach, The Political
local patron owed his local leadership to his Systems of Highland Burma (Cambridge: Harvard
personal skills, his wealth, and occasionally to University Press, 1954), and J. M. Gullick, Indigenous
Political Systems of Western Malaya, London School
his connections with regional leaders-all of of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology
which enhanced his capacity to build a personal #17 (London: University of London/Athlone Press,
following. The fortunes of such petty leaders 1958).
106 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66

Secular Trends mi the Nature of Patron-Client Ties MiSoutheast Asia


Quality Traditional Contemporary
I. Duration of bond more persistent less persistent
2. Scope of exchange multiplex [increasingly] simplex
3. Resource base local, personal external links, office-based
4. Affective/instrumental higher ratio of affective to lower ratio of affective to
balance instrumental ties instrumental ties
5. Local resource control more local monopoly less local monopoly
6. Differentiation between less differentiation more differentiation
clusters
7. Density of coverage greater density less density

The capacity to mobilize an armed following ence, modern sector employment, or adminis-
was particularly valuable in the precolonial trative influence. Although patron-client ties re-
era; access to colonial office was a surer basis mained flexible and personal, the more limited
of patronage than armed force in the colonial capacities of the patron tended to make relation-
period; and the ability to win electoral contests ships less comprehensive and hence less stable.4-
often became the central resource with the ad- (3) The traditional patron for the most part
vent of independence. Not only have resource operated with personally controlled local re-
bases proved mercurial over time, but the na- sources. One effect of the colonial period-and
ture of patron-client ties in the indirectly ruled independence as well-was to increase radi-
highland areas has remained substantially dif- cally the importance of external resources for
ferent from lowland patterns. Amidst this vari- local patronage. A following based on purely
ety and change, it is nevertheless possible to local office or landholding was seldom sufficient
discern a number of secular trends in the char- to sustain a patron in a new environment where
acter of patron-client bonds. Such trends are schools, agricultural services, regional banks,
far more pronounced in some areas than oth- and public employment represented competing
ers, but they do represent directions of change sources of patronage. The growing role of out-
that are important for our analysis. side resources, in most cases, thus led to com-
(1) In comparison with more bureaucratic petition among patrons, each of whom re-
empires, patron-client bonds in precolonial cruited followings with the particular resources
Southeast Asia were not, as I have pointed out, at his command.46 In addition, since those who
markedly persistent With the quickening of so- controlled the new resources were generally
cial change brought about by the commerciali- office-holders subject to transfers or political
zation of the economy and the penetration of changes at the center, the new patrons were less
the colonial state into local affairs, however, a secure than older patrons and probably more in-
patron's resource base became even more vul- clined to maximize their gains over the short run.
nerable to the actions of outside forces over (4) Because the new patron-client ties were
which he had little or no control. It was an in- weaker and less comprehensive, and because
genious patron indeed who could survive the the new patrons were often from outside the
creation of the colonial state, the export boom, local community, the instrumental nature of
the depression of the 1930s, the Japanese occu- the exchange became more prominent. A rela-
pation, and independence with his resources tionship that had always involved some calcula-
and clientele intact. The major exception to this tions of advantage lost some of its traditional
trend was the colonial period in indirectly ruled legitimacy and grew more profane. Patron-
areas where colonial military and financial client exchanges became more monetized, cal-
backing of traditional rulers, if anything, culations more explicit, and concern centered
brought a stability-or stagnation-to political "Again, indirectly ruled areas were often exceptions
systems that had been more chaotic. Elsewhere, in that local rulers tended to take on new powers
patron-client links tended to become more frag- under the colonial regime and thus became more com-
ile and less persistent. prehensive patrons than in the past.
'For Malaysia, M. G. Swift, Malay Peasant So-
(2) With the differentiation of the economy ciety in Jelebu (London: University of London, 1965),
and its effects on the social structure, the scope pp. 158-60 captures this shift in local power. A gen-
of exchange between patron and client tended eral treatment of such changes is contained in Ralph
to narrow somewhat. Where traditional patrons W. Nicholas, "Factions: A Comparative Analysis," in
could generally serve as all purpose protectors, M. Banton, general ed., Political Systems and the
Distribution of Power, Association of Applied Social
the newer patron's effectiveness tended to be Anthropology Monograph #2 (London: Tavistock
more specialized in areas such as political influ- Publications, 1965), pp. 2141.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 107

more on the rate of return from the relation- While some long run trends in patron-client
ship rather than on its durability. This trend ties seem clear, it is difficult to say anything
meant that newer patron-client clusters were about the balance between voluntarism and
likely to have a comparatively large "fair- coercion over time. On the one hand, changes
weather" periphery, a comparatively small core- in the economy have made clients less autono-
following, and a less "constant" patron as well. mous and more dependent on patrons for pro-
(5) The breakdown of local patron monop- tection against a fall in world prices, for cash
olies follows logically from most of the changes advances before the harvest, and so forth. Also
we have already discussed. Where one local contributing to a decline in the client's bargain-
landowner or traditional leader had once domi- ing position is the imported legal system of
nated he now faced competitors who might be property guarantees which allow a wealthy
local administrators of state welfare in loan man, if he so chooses, to resist pressures for re-
programs, teachers in new secular schools, a distribution that operated in a traditional set-
local trader or businessman, or the resident ting. On the other hand, the breakdown of local
manager of a foreign-owned plantation. Fac- patronly monopolies and the exchange re-
tional strife which reflects this competition was sources that electoral systems often place in the
most common in villages where socioeconomic hands of clients work in the opposite direction.
change and government penetration had been Given these contradictory tendencies, one can
far-reaching, and less common in more tradi- draw the tentative conclusion that patron
tional areas.47 coerciveness has declined only where extra-
(6) As differentiation occurred within the local resources and competitive elections are
local societies, they gave rise to patron-client common and has elsewhere either increased or
clusters that were distinct. A bureaucrat might remained the same.
have a following primarily within his agency, a In general, patron-client ties have tended to
businessman among his laborers, and a land- become more instrumental, less comprehensive,
owner among his tenants. This process of dif- and hence less resilient. They still represent dif-
ferentiation among clusters provided the poten- fuse personal bonds of affection when com-
tial basis for durable group interests inasmuch pared to the impersonal, contractual ties of the
as many clusters now had an institutional dis- marketplace, but the direction of change is
tinctiveness. eroding their more traditional characteristics.
(7) While the changes we have examined Even this supple traditional protective mecha-
may have assisted the vertical integration of pa- nism has had to pay a certain price to survive
tron-client pyramids, they tended to reduce the in the midst of a nation-state with a commer-
universality of coverage. That is, more and cialized economy. The durability and legiti-
more people in the new market towns and cit- macy of the patron-client tie was best served
ies, on plantations, and on small plots they when all of a client's dependencies were fo-
rented from absentee landlords were no longer cused on a single patron. But, as Godfrey and
attached-or were very weakly attached-to Monica Wilson have shown, this situation is
patrons. These new elements of the population less and less likely since the process of modern-
varied greatly in their interests and their levels ization tends to create multiple dependencies-
of organization, but, in any event, they fell out- each of less intensitya-"rather than concentrat-
side the older patron-client network. ing dependence on one person.48 The slowly
"In his study of politics in an Indonesian town,
weakening comprehensiveness of the link is, ul-
Clifford Geertz has shown that the more traditional timately, what undermines its sanctity and legit-
hamlets were more likely to be united under a par- imacy for the client.
ticular leader than were hamlets which had changed
more; The Social History of an Indonesian Town 2. The Dynamics of the Transformation. The
(Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1965), Chapter 6. This
finding is corroborated by Feith's study of the 1955 engine behind the shift in patron-client ties was
Indonesian elections; Herbert Feith, The Indonesian largely provided by the penetration of the local
Elections of 1955, Interim Report Series, Modern In- arena by an intrusive national economy and na-
donesia Project (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1961),
pp. 28-30. A comparative study of two Burmese vil-
tional political system. This penetration
lages also supports this conclusion: cf. Manning Nash, wrought two major changes that transformed
The Golden Road to Modernity (New York: Wiley, patron-client links: a) during the colonial
1965). In this context, directly ruled lowland areas period, especially, it impaired the effectiveness
tended to develop factional competition among dif-
ferent patrons, while less directly ruled areas (espe-
of local redistributive pressures and b) partic-
cially highland areas) more frequently retained some
unity behind a single patron who remained their 48 G. and M. Wilson, The Analysis of Social
broker with the outside world. Change, pp. 28, 40.
108 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66

ularly after independence it "nationalized" ac- and the possible mobility between them in com-
cess to patronly resources, thus creating new plex societies allows deviants of nearly all sorts
bases of patronage and devaluating old ones. to escape from the impact of community disap-
Traditional peasant societies, operating in an proval by finding a sub-group of likeminded per-
sons....la
economy of great scarcity in which one fami-
ly's gain is another's loss, have generally devel- Absentee landlords, the new urban wealthy,
oped a variety of social control mechanisms and minority communities (who were relatively
that guarantee a measure of security to each impervious to local social approval so long as
family and temper the centrifugal forces gener- they had colonial backing) were new elements
ated by the struggle for subsistence.49 These in colonial society which could escape patronly
mechanisms commonly involve forcing anyone obligations. The colonial system thus tended to
who has accumulated considerable wealth to allow existing patrons greater latitude for ex-
redistribute a portion of it. A wealthy man is ploitation while producing a class of wealthy
pressed to assume expensive ceremonial offices, nonpatrons.
to make large religious contributions, to give If the intrusion of external power could
loans and donations, and so forth. He trades his strengthen the hand of an existing patron, it
wealth for prestige, and, by so providing for at could also create a resource base for the rise of
least the minimum well-being of others, he be- new patrons. The activities of the colonial re-
comes a legitimate patron with a personal en- gime included the hiring, firing, and promotion
tourage of those obligated to him. of public employees, the dispensing of con-
The central fact about these redistributive tracts, and the granting of licenses and permits,
mechanisms, however, is that they operate by all of which could be used to create a personal
virtue of a local power situation. That is, the following. With independence, not only did
wealthy man in a peasant village can seldom local leaders take over responsibility for all
rely on outside force or law to protect him; in- these decisions, but the scope of government
stead, his wealth and position are ultimately activity and regulation was generally expanded
validated by the legitimacy he acquires in the into new areas such as community develop-
local community. Unless a wealthy individual ment. The survival or demise of a local patron
can persuade most of the community that his often depended, as Geertz has shown, on how
wealth is no threat to them or can win enough successful he was in tapping these new bases of
personal allies to sustain his position, he is in power.5'
danger. Colonialism, however, broke the rela- Except for the rare local patrons-especially
tive autonomy of the local arena and hence in indirectly ruled areas-who were able to mo-
weakened many of the community's redistrib- nopolize these external resources, the new situ-
utive pressures. Supported in effect by the ation produced more competition and mobility
power of the colonial regime to enforce its no- among patrons. Many potential clients quickly
tion of law, the patron could increasingly ig- discovered that their needs were best served by
nore local levelling pressures. If he lost much a patron who had access to the institutions
of the social approval he previously enjoyed, he which controlled the use of these external re-
had gained an outside ally with the power to sources. In any local context this shift could be
guarantee his local position. The colonial measured by the rise of new patrons who were
power situation thus offered the older patron wholly or partly based in these new structures.
new leverage in the local arena-leverage Stuying the incorporation of Sardinia into the
which was further strengthened by the growing Italian nation-state in the 20th century, Alex
complexity of colonial society. As Blau has ex- Weingrod has documented the growing impor-
plained, tance of such externally based patrons.52 The
Social approval has a less pervasive significance as proportion of outsiders asked to be godparents,
a restraining force in complex societies than in for example, increased dramatically from 1920
simpler ones, because the multiplicity of groups to 1960, and patrons with links to the ruling
party and the state bureaucracy had increased
49 For a description of such mechanisms see Clifford their followings at the expense of traditional
Geertz, Agricultural Involution (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1963); George M. Foster, "Peas- Blau, Exchange and Power in Social Life, p. 114.
ant Society and the Image of Limited Good," Ameri- 5 Geertz shows how local leaders often managed to
can Anthropologist 67, 2 (April, 1965), pp. 293-315; become agents of the local sugar mills-buying crops,
Swift, Malay Peasant Society . . . . and Mary B. renting land, and recruiting labor and thereby en-
Hollnsteiner, "Social Control and Filipino Personal- larging their power in the community. The Social His-
ity," Symposium on the Filipino Personality (Mal- tory . . ., p. 57.
cati: Psychological Association of the Philippines, 52Alex Weingrod, "Patrons, Patronage, and Political
1965), p. 24. Parties," pp. 388, 397.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 109

landholders. A similar process has occurred in tional legitimacy. Given the slower pace of eco-
Southeast Asia as the integration of villages into nomic change and state penetration in these re-
a national economy and political system tended gions, the local leader had to contend less with
to produce a number of more specialized local new competitors who flourished amidst such
patrons who often became factional leaders. changes. The strength many patrons achieved
Most of the transformations in patron-client under indirect rule is nowhere more apparent
bonds that we have been discussing apply with than in postcolonial elections in which they of-
greatest force to the directly ruled, lowland ten could deliver most of their region's vote.
areas of Southeast Asia where the colonial im-
pact was both swift and far-reaching, and 3. Electoral Politics and Patron-Client Ties.
where colonial officials more thoroughly re- Most Southeast Asian states have had function-
placed indigenous leaders. In the indirectly ing electoral systems at one time since their
ruled areas-such as highland Burma, the Un- independence. Although only the Philippines
federated States of Malaya, most of Indonesia's retains a parliamentary system, the electoral
Outer Islands, Cambodia, Laos (and perhaps studies that do exist can tell us much about the
Thailand belongs here as a limiting case of in- effects of party competition on patron-client
direct colonial influence) -these generaliza- bonds and, beyond that, highlight some of the
tions must be qualified. To ease the financial unstable features of patron-client democracies.
and administrative burden of colonial rule in The dynamics of electoral competition trans-
these areas, the colonizers generally kept local formed patron-client relations in at least four
rulers in place and used them as agents. Since important ways: (1) it improved the client's
these were by and large peripheral areas of bargaining position with a patron by adding to
marginal commercial interest, the pace of eco- his resources; (2 ) it promoted the vertical inte-
nomic change tended to be slower as well. gration of patron-client structures from the
The effects of this policy on patrons, in con- hamlet level to the central government; (3) it
trast to the directly ruled regions, were twofold. led to the creation of new patron-client pyra-
First, local patron/leaders tended to be mids and the politicization of old ones; and (4)
strengthened by colonial backing and the new it contributed to the survival of opposition pa-
powers given to them. What had probably been tron-client pyramids at the local level.
a fairly unstable and minimal chieftaincy now First, with popular elections the client gained
became a local regime stabilized and extended a new political resource, since the mere giving
by the colonial power. Secondly, the sanction or withholding of his vote affected the fortunes
of colonial authority permitted many such lead- of aspirants for office. Nor were voters slow to
ers to broaden the resource base of their au- realize that this resource could be turned to
thority.53 It is true of course that a local pa- good account. Even someone with no other ser-
tron's new source of strength entailed some vices of value to offer a patron found that the
threat to his legitimacy, but since the colonial votes of his immediate family were often suffi-
regime demanded little beyond the maintenance cient to secure the continuous assistance of a
of law and order in those areas, it was seldom local politician. This pattern could be found
crippling. On the other hand, the annointed throughout Southeast Asia in electoral situations
patron now had the means to eclipse his rival but is most striking in the Philippines, where
patrons. He not only had his traditional author- most patron-client ties are centered around land-
ity and the discretionary administrative powers holding and elections. The Filipino politician, as
given him by the colonial regime, but he could Wurfel points out, does favors individually
use his power to purchase land, control local rather than collectively because he wishes to
trade, and act as the commissioned agent of create a personal obligation of clientship.54 The
private firms. Frequently, then, the local ruler voter, for his part, asks that his patron/politi-
gained a new lease on political life as the domi- cian favor him because of a personal obligation
nant local figure owing to his wealth, his ad- to reciprocate.
ministrative power, and a measure of tradi- In one sense, popular elections can be seen
as a reestablishment of the redistributive
"Similar assessments of the effects of indirect rule mechanisms of the traditional setting. Once
can be found in M. G. Swift, pp. 148-149; Harry J.
Benda and John Bastin, A History of Modern South- again a patron's position becomes somewhat
east Asia (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968), more dependent on the social approval of his
pp. 75-122. The best accounts of the pattern, however, community-a social approval that is now
come from India. Cf. Bailey, Politics and Social Change,
" David Wurfel, "The Philippines," in Comparative
Chapter 4, and Paul R. Brass, Factional Politics in an
Indian State (Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of Studies in Political Finance: A Symposium, Journal of
California Press, 1965), Chapter 4. Politics, 25 (November, 1963), 757-773.
110 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66

backed by the power to defeat him or his can- vors, i.e., his clients-to join as well.57
didate at the polls. Unable to depend on out- The nature of the new exchange relationship
right coercion, and faced with competitors, the that gives vitality to this patron-clientpyramid
electoral patron knows he must (unless his is similar in most electoral systems. The local
local economic power is decisive) generally patrons and their clients provide votes at
offer his clients better terms than his rivals if he election time, hopefully carrying the village,
hopes to maintain his local power. while the party undertakesto help its local ad-
Second, nationwide elections make it neces- herents (through their patron) with jobs, help
sary for a national party to establish a network in dealing with the bureaucracy,providingpub-
of links extending down to the local level. For lic works, and so forth. Since the winning party
the most part a party does this by taking advan- can generally offer more supportto local allies
tage of existing patron-client clusters and incor- than the opposition can, local patrons are likely
porating them into its structure. The competi- to display a "bandwagoneffect,"switchingalle-
tive struggle of Indonesian parties to forge such giance to a probable winner. In addition, the
links in Java during the 1950s is apparent in party's need for a powerful local base is likely
the accounts Feith and Geertz give of electoral to lead to a certain localization of power. In
campaigns.55 They agree that effective cam- return for deliveringlocal votes for its list, the
paigning in the village took the form of activat- party is likely to give its local patron a wide
ing and politicizing preexisting personal links discretion in administrative and development
rather than mass meetings or policy stands. The decisions affectingthe locality. Thus many local
campaign was, as Feith says patrons are able to entrenchthemselvesfurther
as dominantfigures.
a race for a foothold in these villages . . . a
foothold involving allegiance of as many as pos-
A third consequence of elections for the pa-
sible of their influential people. Here the first step tron-client structure is to promote the expan-
was to secure the support of those whose authority sion of patron-clientties and the politicization
was accepted by the village prominents. Thus the of existing bonds. Knowing that an electoral
parties struggled with one another for influence victory is important,a local patronwith a mod-
with the bupatis, the wedanas, and the tjamats ... est following will probably try to obligate
with the local military commanders and the heads more clients to him in order to strengthenhis
of local offices of Religion, Information, and Mass electoral position. Patrons who have previously
Education, kijaijis, ulamas, heads of clans, old been politically inactive would "immediately
guerrilla leaders....
convert their private power such as control
As elsewhere in Southeast Asia, a party suc- over sharecroppers, debtors kinsmen, neigh-
ceeded best at the polls by securing the adhe- bors, etc., into public political power in the
sion of the important local patrons, who would form of votes."58 Given these tendencies,
deliver their clients as a matter of course. the patron-clientstructuresin a given commu-
Working on voters individually or by class affil- nity are most evident immediately before an
iation made little sense when most of the election, especially a hotly contested one, when
electorate was divided into patron-client clus- the contestants attempt to activate any links
ters. The affiliation of patrons was often gained that might advancetheir cause.
by making them candidates, by promising them A final point about the impact of elections
jobs or other patronage, or even by cash pay- on patron-clientstructuresis that they tend to
ments. It is clear, however, that, in comparison heighten factionalism and unless one cohesive
with those parties who had to create new links party completely dominates, to promote the
to village leaders, parties such as the Nahdatul survival of local opposition factions. In most
Ulama which could rely on bonds that ante- traditional settings, patron rivalry was largely
dated the election, were in a stronger position. limited to the local arena so as not to invite ex-
Nash's account of the 1960 election in upper ternal intervention. An electoral system, by
Burma reveals a similar pattern of patron mo- contrast, creates rival national or regional par-
bilization. When a local patron was approached ties which need allies at the local level. A weak
to join U Nu's faction of the AFPFL on the faction that might previously have been forced
promise of later patronage, he was able to get to compose its differenceswith a dominantfac-
thirty-nine others-his relatives and those who tion, can now appeal for external support.
owed him money or for whom he had done fa- Many of these external allies are able to pro-
vide their local adherentswith patronage,cash,
->Feith, The Indonesian Elections of 1955; Geertz, 5"Manning Nash, "Party Building in Upper Burma,"
The Social History of an Indonesian Town. Asian Survey, 3 (April, 1963), pp. 196-202.
wFeith, p. 79. - Nicholas, "Factions . . .," p. 45.
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 111

or other favors so as to maintain a local foot- mous local patrons. This distinction has validity
hold. The net effect of electoral competition is in Southeast Asia as well, both in accounting
thus to exacerbate many of the latent factional for the different styles of politics in the indi-
differences among patron-client clusters and oc- rectly ruled, more traditional areas as com-
casionally to buttress weak patrons whose posi- pared to the directly ruled, heavily commercial-
tion would otherwise have disintegrated. ized areas and also in explaining the structural
The effects we have attributed to elections differences between the more traditionalist as
can be compared to the situation in Thailand, compared to more modern parties. In the indi-
where elections have only rarely been any more rectly ruled areas, political parties confronted
than a device to legitimate self-selected rulers. fairly stable constellations of local patron
There the local client's vote is not important power which would have been difficult to de-
enough to materially improve his bargaining stroy. It was simpler to come to terms with
position with a patron, and the vertical integra- local leaders rather than to try to circumvent
tion of patron-client clusters had not gone very them, even though this accommodation tended
far beyond the central institutions of the bureau- to divide the party into a coalition of political
cracy and armed forces. In Thai villages unlike fiefdoms. In directly ruled areas where compe-
the electoral settings of Java in the 1950s, or tition among patrons and heavily instrumental
the Philippines, many patron-client clusters are ties were more common, a party had a greater
of purely local significance and are not highly opportunity to create new linkages but at per-
politicized. Local factional conflict, as a result, haps greater expense in favors and patronage.
is much less striking in Thailand than where Throughout Southeast Asia all parties had to
competitive elections have helped to subsidize adapt themselves to these differences in social
it. structure in different regions of the country:
To this point we have focused on the general the PNI of Indonesia operated differently in
influence of elections on patron-client struc- Central Java than in the Outer Islands; U Nu's
tures. Depending on the region and the party in AFPFL faction could not win the support of
question, however, there has been a noteworthy the hill tribes in the same way they won the
variation in the connection between party and vote of the lowland Burmese, and the National-
patron-client structures. The essential distinc- ists in the Philippines campaigned differently in
tion is one between a party that has created its central Luzon than in Mindanao.
own network of patron-client linkages from the There were also systematic differences be-
center and a party that relies on preexisting tween the neo-traditionalist and modernist par-
patron-client bonds and merely incorporates ties within a given area. In Java, for example,
them into its organization. This corresponds to the Nahdatul Ulama incorporated more tradi-
Rene Lemarchand's distinction between types tional patron-client ties than did the PNI,
of party machines in Africa. which could rely more on its access to material
In situations where micro-level clientelistic struc- rewards and local administration. On the East
tures provide the essential linkages between the Coast of Malaya, the Islamic PMIP appealed
party machine and the masses . . . the machine is most to the more traditional peasantry while
superimposed upon, and in some ways tributary the ruling UMNO concentrated on the town
of, the clientelistic subsystem. A distinction must population and those dependent on federal
therefore be drawn between the more orthodox funds. One would also guess that the Ba Swe
types of machine ... in which patronage becomes faction of the AFPFL had a more instrumental
the essential source of cohesion, and what one base in towns and the modern sector, while U
might call the neo-traditional machine, in which Nu's faction was more frequently based on ex-
exchange processes between the center and periph-
ery are mediated by, and contingent upon, the isting patron-client links in the countryside.
operation of traditional forms of clientelism.5' Simply knowing the kind of patron-client bonds
a party had created or incorporated could re-
As Lemarchand adds, the "orthodox" machine veal a great deal about the party's cohesive-
is more dependent on material inducements ness, the nature of its local base, and the extent
since its linkages are of more recent origin and of its reliance on material inducements.
hence more instrumental. "Neo-traditional"
machines, by contrast, can rely somewhat more 4. The Iuflftionary Character of "Patron-Client
heavily on established patterns of deference, Democracy." The introduction of competitive
though they must bargain with nearly autono- elections in Southeast Asia increased the pres-
"I Rene Lemarchand, "Political Clientelism and Eth- sures on regimes for the downward distribution
nicity: Competing Solidarities in Nation-Building," of tangible benefits. In return for votes flow-
American Political Science Review, 66 (March, 1972). ing up the vertical chain of patron-client struc-
112 The American Political Science Review Vol. 66
tures, each patron depended upon the down- erence is strong, will, I assume, cost a party
ward distribution of patronage in the form of somewhat less in material rewards and favors
administrative favors, land grants, public em- than will a network of the same size in a built-
ployment, and so on, in order to keep his own up area where traditional patron-client bonds
pyramid of followers intact. Elections, by them- have eroded. Finally, a neo-traditionalist party
selves, had shifted the balance of exchange so such as UMNO in Malaysia can, in part, rely
that it favored the client somewhat more than upon the traditional legitimacy of many of its
before. The consequence of this shift in ex- leaders while a party of "new men" such as the
change terms was a greater flow of material PNI in Indonesia or the AFPFL in Burma has
benefits toward the base of the patron-client net- to rely more often on highly instrumental ties.
work. Thus a weak party led by "new men" and rely-
The strength of the downward distributive ing on votes from among an uprooted popula-
pressures generated by electoral procedures in tion is likely to develop a patchwork patron-
Southeast Asia depended primarily on four client structure that is very expensive to main-
variables which are stated below in contrasting tain. It is indicative of just how much financial
terms. backing such structures require that only a rul-
(See table at bottom of page.) ing party with access to the public till can gen-
erally afford the construction costs.60
Each of the above variables related to the The distributive pressures experienced by
strength of incentives impelling a party to max- such regimes manifest themselves in familiar
imize its clientele and the degree to which that ways. Government budgets, and of course defi-
clientele will depend on concrete material in- cits, swell quickly with expenditures on educa-
centives rather than ties of affection or defer- tion, growing public employment, community
ence. The first and obvious requirement for dis- development projects, agricultural loans, and so
tributive pressures is that elections be important forth. Particularly since votes in Southeast Asia
in the selection of an elite. Secondly, a shaky are to be found in the countryside, one would
regime or party will be in a less advantageous expect that regimes with strong electoral pres-
position to resist client demands than a strong sures would spend more in the grass-roots rural
one, since an election is an all or nothing affair areas than would regimes without such pres-
and uncertainty over the outcome will raise sures. Given such pressures, local expenditure
costs; when the race is close, the party in its is also arranged as much as possible so that
recruitment efforts knows that the marginal benefits can be distributed individually since
value of the extra dollar, patronage job, or de- that arrangement is more appropriate to pa-
velopment grant is all the greater. That is one tron-client exchange patterns. Even with pork-
reason why distributive pressures were greater barrel programs a local party leader will claim
in 1955 in Indonesia when an election fraught personal responsibility for the gift and per-
with uncertainty would determine which parties sonally help distribute whatever employment
would form a coalition, than in Malaysia in or subcontracting it includes. The capacity of
1964 when the question was not whether the the regime to keep its network intact and win
Alliance would win but whether or not it would
'*Adrian C. Mayer seems to have this distinction in
take two thirds of the seats. The importance of mind, in his study of an Indian town comparing the
social change (item three) is based on the ob- "hard" campaign of the Jan Sangh, which relied on
servation that patron-client ties in less tradi- durable social ties and tried to prevent defections, and
tional areas typically require the patron to de- the local Congress Party, which ran a "soft" cam-
paign of short-term link by promising favors and
liver more in the way of instrumental, material benefits to intermediaries. See Mayer, "The Signifi-
rewards The maintenance of a loyal patron- cance of Quasi-Groups in the Study of Complex So-
client network in a traditional area where def- cieties," p. 106.

Distributive Pressures of Elections


A. Strongest when B. Weakest when
1. Elections determine powerholders 1. Elections have marginal significance
2. Regime is weak, unstable regime 2. Regime is strong, stable regime
3. Socioeconomic change is extensive (direct rule, 3. Socioeconomic change is less extensive (indirect
lowland areas) rule, highland areas)
4. Party is modernist, secular. 4. Party is traditionalist, religious
Examples of Strong Distributive Pressure (A): Indonesia (until 1955), Burma (until 1959 at least),
the Philippines.
Examples of Weaker Distributive Pressures (B): Thailand, and perhaps Malaysia (until 1967).
1972 Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia 113

elections depends on its capacity to provide the Philippines, when compared with similar
rewards for the lower tiers of its structure at a statistics for nonparliamentary periods in these
constant or even expanding rate. same countries, or say, with statistics from
A regime that is dependent on its particular- Thailand and Malaysia should confirm this pre-
istic distributive capacity is also unlikely to diction.61
solve its financial dilemmas either by structural Democratic regimes which must cater to the
reform or by tapping new sources of revenue. strong distributive pressures generated by their
Most conceivable structural reforms, such as electoral clientele are thus particularly vulnera-
land redistribution, would strike at the resource ble to the vagaries of world prices for primary
base of many patrons and are thus unaccepta- products on which their budgets depend. As
ble to parties whose policy interests coincide long as the economy expanded and world
with the desires of its dominant patrons. Such prices were buoyant, they could afford the costs
regimes also have a most difficult time raising in public jobs, pork-barrel projects and loan
revenue from internal taxation. A rise in direct programs to solidify and expand their huge pa-
taxation would threaten their base of support; tron-client network. But a stagnating economy
and, in fact, they are notorious for the under- or declining world prices threatened the entire
collection of revenues due them, since fa- structure they had pieced together, since it re-
vors to their clients often take the form of ei- lied so heavily on material inducements and
ther leaving them off local tax rolls or ignoring relatively little on affective ties. In this context
debts they owe the government. The Burmese it may be that the collapse of Korean war-
peasants connected to U Nu's faction of the boom prices for primary exports was the cru-
AFPFL, for example, were almost universally cial blow to democracy in Indonesia and
in default on agricultural loans they had re- Burma. The Philippines may narrowly have es-
ceived as party supporters. They assumed the caped a similar fate by virtue of their longer
loan was a gift for clientship and knew that a and more legitimate democratic tradition, as
government dependent on their votes could well as by their not having suffered as propor-
scarcely press matters. tionately large a loss in foreign exchange. Ma-
If this analysis is correct, regimes under in- laysia was less vulnerable, since she had just
tense distributive pressures will characteristi- become independent and her strong government
cally resort to budget deficits, especially in faced only moderate distributive pressures,
election years, to finance their networks of ad- while the Thai military elite was even less re-
herents. Their reliance on heavily instrumental liant on its distributive performance. The po-
and highly monetized patron-client ties will also litical stability or instability of parliamentary
make it difficult for them to avoid running forms in these nations in the late 1950s was
down their foreign exchange reserves to main- thus strongly affected by the strength of distrib-
tain their strength at the polls. The division of utive pressures fostered by these political sys-
expenditures within the budgets of such re- tems in the mid 1950s.
gimes should also reveal a heavy emphasis on
distributive expenses at the local level. Empiri- I Many of these data are not in a form that permits
cal studies of budget distribution, budget defi- easy comparisons. Although budget deficit and foreign
cits, and foreign exchange expenditures over exchange figures seem to fit this pattern, statistical
time in parliamentary Burma, Indonesia, and confirmation will have to await further research.

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