Political Patronage: Definition, Motives & Example

Political Patronage: Definition, Motives & Example
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  • 0:00 What Is Political Patronage?
  • 1:21 Why Use Political Patronage?
  • 3:30 Examples of Political…
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of political patronage, as well as why it can be difficult to identify, what its actually used for, and how it influences political systems.

What Is Political Patronage?

Think about the people who run your country, including who they are and how they got their jobs. If you live in a democratic country, like the United States, they were very likely elected by citizens through the democratic process. If you live in the Middle East, perhaps you have a sultan, whose position was given to him by his predecessor. Regardless of where you live, or who is in power, there is a very good chance that your political system involves a certain degree of political patronage that influences how your rulers are chosen.

Political patronage is a situation in which a person is rewarded for supporting a particular politician, such as campaigning or voting for them.

Political patronage can sometimes include the exchange of money for political support. For example, if Mr. Corgan was running for President of the United States and told you he would give you $1,000 if you publicly endorse him, he would be engaging in political patronage.

Political patronage can be a complicated topic to understand because it works in many different ways, and in many cases it is against the law. As a matter of fact, the example of buying support for $1,000 is a form of political patronage, and in the United States, most people would also consider it to be corrupt and a violation of the law.

Why Use Political Patronage?

While most cases of political patronage are against the law in the United States, in other countries, it is not only entirely legal, but also an important part of the political process. Whether it is legal or illegal, political patronage can become more or less complicated, depending on where it is being used and why.

In some countries, like Russia, certain politicians may unconditionally support the nation's leader because they know that their loyalty will be rewarded. For example, if a low-level Russian politician wanted to rise up in the ranks, he may provide support to the president through campaigning and propaganda, in exchange for an appointment in the Russian Federal Assembly.

Another reason that a person may use political patronage is for economic gain. Direct financial compensation, like buying support, isn't very common. However, corporations and other business entities may sometimes support a particular candidate with the understanding that they will get something in exchange. If Mr. Iha was a director of a corporation, and he wanted to have certain laws changed so that the corporation could make more money, he might offer to publicly support a candidate with the understanding that, once elected, that would try to change the laws.

Finally, there are many examples of political patronage that do not involve an individual being compensated with money or power, but with material or luxury items. For example, if Mrs. Wretzky was running for governor of a particular state and wanted the unconditional support of a high-profile business owner in her city, she might use my own power to arrange for that business owner to be given gifts, like cars or vacations, in exchange for the business owner's support.

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