patron-client relationshipany continuing relationship, often contractual, in which a powerful or influential person provides rewards and services to humbler and weaker persons in return for loyalty and support, and perhaps also including the reciprocal exchange of some services. Such relationships are found especially in simple or traditional societies; similar relationships may also exist between states.
The concept may cover personalized relationships and include instances where both coercion and consent are involved. It has been of particular importance in understanding relationships of the peasantry (see PEASANTS) with other groups in society such as landlords or politicians. Usually the patron provides favours, services or protection in return for loyalty, political support, and maybe economic control. This relationship may extend outside the peasantry to a style of national politics in which electoral support is gained through fostering patron-client relationships, with a politician either giving or promising favours. Thus a system of clientelism may be one way of incorporating a wide population into national politics. Mouzelis (1986) discusses this and contrasts it with POPULISM as a form of political incorporation in parts of Latin America and the Balkans.