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Reading: Patrimonialism. What is behind the term: ideal type, category, concept or just a buzzword?


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Patrimonialism. What is behind the term: ideal type, category, concept or just a buzzword?


Mikhail Ilyin

National Research University Higher School of Economics, RU
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The terms patrimonialism and neo-patrimonialism designate significantly different conceptual instruments. They are used to identify and interpret a range of phenomena. Using as a point of departure Weberian types of partimonial rule the author reconstructs the prototype of patrimonial order. Its key element is an inherent insight of mutual patrimony or patrimonium. It is both instrumental and essential common good that helps to keep together not only the rulers and the ruled but the entire patrimonial order. This and other morphological pattern of order are nothing but ‘blueprints’ for making conflicting desires of order come actual and real. Historical achievements and current practices provide a range of patrimonial hybrids and admixtures to political setups of all kinds. All those arrangements can be interpreted as metamorphoses of the prototype patrimonial order. The author particularly highlights the tripled knot of patrimonialism, bureaucracy and modernity in the current political practices. Conceptually coherent analysis of both functions and dysfunctions of patrimonialism helps to see the potential of patrimonial patterns of order in the ongoing political process. Insufficient and blurred conceptualization of patrimonialism let its dysfunctions loose and deprive us of abilities to overcome them.

How to Cite: Ilyin, Mikhail. 2015. “Patrimonialism. What Is Behind the Term: Ideal Type, Category, Concept or Just a Buzzword?”. Redescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory 18 (1): 26–51. DOI:
Published on 01 Mar 2015.
Peer Reviewed


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