Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 3, issue 4

Carolyn M. Warner, "Political Parties and the Opportunity Costs of Patronage," Party Politics, 3 (October 1997), 533-548.

First Paragraph:
Practitioners and scholars alike generally assume that patronage is a useful strategy for parties to adopt in order to get votes and control political office. As Katz and Mair argue:
"In short, the state, which is invaded by the parties, and the rules of which are determined by the parties, becomes a fount of resources through which these parties not only help to ensure their own survival, but through which they can also enhance their capacity to resist challenges from newly mobilized alternatives." (Katz and Mair, 1995: 000)
Others argue that it strengthens political parties and stabilizes the political system (Huntington, 1968, 69-70; Di Palma, 1977). Further, it is often argued that patronage contributes to national integration, conflict appeasement, economic development and even effective government (Merton, 1957; Dahl, 1961; Weiner, 1962; Nye 1967; Weingrod, 1968; Graziano, 1983; Hird 1991; Anechiarico and Jacobs, 1996). Politicians across countries and time have clearly demonstrated a belief in the utility of patronage. The multiple and vast negative socio-economic and political externalities of patronage have been widely documented (Allum, 1973; Grindle, 1977; Chubb, 1982; Ward, 1989; Kurer, 1993; Mauro, 1995); the negative effects of patronage on the party using, it have, however, been largely overlooked.

Figures and Tables:
None

Last Paragraph:
The issue of patronage costs is an important one: the strategy, often beneficial at the individual level, can in the long run become counter-productive for a party (not to mention a society). Party patronage, to be successful, depends on economic and bureaucratic resources or, in times of scarcity, on the party having monopoly control of the political and economic system. Yet patronage, as I have argued, undermines the very conditions for its success. The logic of patronage appears to be such that a party only recognizes (and determines to reduce) the costs when reformist coalitions or rival patronage-using parties have obtained the upper hand. Future research will show under what conditions patronage-using parties might break the vicious circle of their own making.