Critical Review of James Scott's "Patron Clients and Political Change in Southeast Asia"

954 Words Dec 15th, 2007 4 Pages
A Critical Review of James C. Scott's "Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia"

Patrick Liao Vilhena
SID 18984638 In his "Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia," (James C. Scott, 1972), James C. Scott attempts to explain the patron-client model of association and "demonstrate its applicability to political action in Southeast Asia." (Scott 1972: 91) He acknowledges that the patron-client model is more commonly applied by anthropologists, but claims that the analysis may have more value in understanding the political situation in "less developed nations." (Scott 1972: 91) Scott presents the two most used models employed by western political scientists in analyzing the Third World. The
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It is instead a relationship based on true trust and affection between the partners. He goes on to claim the relationship is one approaching the bonds of family, in which the patron may act as godfather to the client's child, or be viewed as an uncle, grandfather, or older brother, and is "often a durable bond of genuine mutual devotion that can survive severe testing." (Scott 1972: 94) The "diffuse flexibility," as Scott explains it, is that the nature of the relationship may be based on multiple bonds. "A landlord may, for example, have a client who is connected to him by tenancy, friendship, past exchanges of services, the past tie of the client's father to his father, and ritual coparenthood." (Scott 1972: 95) The patron-client model as presented here by Scott is very broad and general. He speaks of Southeast Asia as if it were a single region, and a small one at that. There is no accounting for the various cultures and different political development in the different nations of Southeast Asia. Granted, it is a tall order to ask that he account for every country and culture in a single article, but his generalities do not just gloss over different cultural and national identities. His model fails to take into account the growing move towards urban centers, on some part by the clients but more so by the patrons, which could undo one of the key points of the patron-client relationship:

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