Corruption & patron-client relationship | Issues and Events in Malaysian History
Clientelism is the exchange of goods and services for political support, often involving an Here relationships between the patron (patronus) and client ( cliens) were seen as crucial to understanding the political process. . It is common to link clientelism with corruption; both involve political actors using public and private. deliver material benefits, they can offer their votes to a rival patron. . to rely on state resources, either through mass party clientelism and corrupt use of public .. intellectuals and minor professionals entirely unassociated with the kinds of ' old. a) Dyadic. Clientelism is a social relationship between two persons, patron and client, and is . is an element of corruption and distinguishes clientelism from corruption. In cases of .. 1) a negligible effort or no effort at all; 2) a minor effort; 3).
Books on comparative politics often assume that governments not fitting easily into one of those two groupings eventually will evolve to become either democratic or authoritarian. Or, it is thought, a few unstable systems, such as Nigeria's, may continue to vacillate between the two. Implicitly, or even explicitly, such comparative politics books suggest that every nation eventually must choose between democracy and authoritarianism.
Other comparative politics books sidestep the matter by placing governments that are neither democratic nor authoritarian into a non—political category. A large number of countries in Africa, Latin Americaor Asia are not seen as responsive enough to be democratic or efficient enough to be authoritarian.
These countries are then lumped into classifications that are more economic, social, chronological, or geographical than political. These states are often referred to as poor countries, developing nations not modernthird—world countries, or southern—hemisphere countries. They are not labeled as patron—client regimes, which would place them in a formal political category.
When modern political scientists discuss patron—client systems, they do so in a negative or dismissive manner. Governments strongly influenced by the principles of patron—clientage are regarded as archaic, inefficient, corrupt, and even criminal. Often, patron—client systems are described as systems on the path to collapse. Nevertheless, their resilience, adaptability, extensive distribution, and weed—like ability to spring up almost instantly in a political void are all characteristics that make such systems worthy topics for description and study.
In spite of powerful efforts to eradicate patron—client systems, their ability to persist suggests remarkable durability and success. Criticism of the patron—client system did not begin just with modern political theory. In the Old Testament Book of I Samuel, the people began to complain about the system of judges or patrons.
Soon after B. Furthermore, critics expressed their displeasure by saying that their system was obsolete. Neighboring peoples were being ruled by kings. Monarchy was a more prestigious method of governance, and the Hebrew people did not want to be left behind.
In Greece, people came to the similar conclusion that patron—client structures were antiquated and inadequate. Plato expressed this most pointedly when he rejected both Homer and Homer's heroes. For Plato, the practice of politics was to be above economic and personal considerations.
Plato recommended that rulers live with only the barest of material possessions. A good ruler, he said, is someone who owns little or nothing. Plato tried hard to prevent personal loyalty and regard for kinship from affecting political decisions. In order to avoid any conflict of interest between the personal and the public, Plato recommended that top political leaders live in a strict communist setting in which they own nothing and share everything.
He even went so far as to suggest that leaders share a community of husbands and wives so that the bonds of marriage would not compromise a ruler's impartiality and his or her ability to make judgments that were in the best interest of the entire community.
Plato challenged the very heart of the patron—client system that celebrates personal loyalty and gives far more weight to relationships than to abstract and impersonal rules or procedures. Perhaps the best medieval defense of the patron—client system was made by Pope Adrian IV — who led the Catholic Church in the twelfth century.
Adrian's views were recorded by his friend and critic, the political thinker John of Salisbury — In the twelfth century, both religious and secular institutions were organized according to the principles of patron—client systems. People at the top collected revenue by taxation, by rendering favorable legal judgments, by assisting people seeking appointments to offices, and by confiscating land or money.
This wealth was used to support a lavish lifestyle and to gain the support of followers who were loyal so long as they continued to benefit from gifts, appointments, and opportunities to extract wealth from others. Anyone wanting to win a court case, gain a church or state office, or obtain shelter from being preyed upon by more powerful people sought the protection of a reliable patron.
Of course, there was a price to pay for that protection. Adrian's analysis and defense of the patron—client system came in response to a series of pointed criticisms raised by John of Salisbury.
Questioning the very heart of the patron—client system, John asked how patrons could justify the enormous flow of resources into the hands of the political elite. Prudent and cautious, John said he was not speaking for himself but for the many people who regarded the practice of exchanging money for favors and offices as oppressive and immoral. John then listed a host of problems within the Church of Rome. Because the Church in the twelfth century functioned like a secular state, John's critique would have been equally applicable to the patron—client governments that existed in the rest of Europe.
In fact, with its army, extensive network of taxation, court system, and vast administrative structure, the Church had a patron—client type of government that surpassed that of many regions and territories ruled by medieval princes.
John of Salisbury's message John began by accusing the Vatican of having become an oppressive stepmother rather than a caring mother. The leaders in Rome, he charged, were vainglorious and proud lovers of money who lived in extravagant luxury. To maintain their opulent life in Rome, they extorted gifts and payments from subordinates throughout Europe.
Furthermore, church judges did not decide cases on the basis of justice; rather, they bartered justice for a price. John noted that the only way to get any action from the church bureaucracy was to pay a bribe.
In addition, he pointed out that church leaders stirred up strife among people of lesser power and influence in order to keep them from uniting and forcing meaningful change at the highest levels. Even the top leaders could not keep harmony among themselves.
In their competition for power, position, and money, they preyed upon each other and their gains were short—lived. The Pope himself, John said sadly, was seen by many people as the worst offender of all.
His avarice and duplicity had become an intolerable burden upon the faithful. The Church had become, John of Salisbury asserted, a wanderer in a trackless wilderness. The Church had strayed from the true way and had given itself over to duplicity and avarice. Where, John asked, was humility, self—restraint, and honesty? Looking beyond the accusatory tone of John of Salisbury's message, it is clear that he was describing an actively functioning patron—client system.
Maintaining the flow of tributes church taxes, bequests, offerings, bribes, and rents into the coffers, or treasury, of Rome, the great bishoprics, and the powerful monastic orders was the main preoccupation of the church hierarchy.
This money was used to support a lavish lifestyle and to provide political and military security for the top leaders. Although the ordinary people groaned under the weight of oppression, they were unable to unite against prominent leaders who used their money and influence to divide and weaken any potential opposition. In such a system, personal attachments and loyalties— not fair laws and courts, rational budgets, or predictable administrative procedures— determined how decisions were made and carried out.
Decisions about church jobs and court cases were made on the basis of payment, not competence or justice. Leaders were far more concerned about building up strong groups of clients than they were with holding to principles and laws. The Pope's response In his response, Pope Adrian IV offered both an explanation and a defense of the patron—client system as it operated in the Middle Ages. Adrian IV Once upon a time all the members of the body conspired against the stomach, as against that which by its greediness devoured utterly the labors of all the rest.
The eye is never sated with seeing, the ear with hearing, the hands go on laboring, the feet become callous from walking, and the tongue itself alternates advantageously between speech and silence. In fine, all the members provide watchfully for the common advantage of all; and in the midst of such care and toil on the part of all, only the stomach is idle, yet it alone devours and consumes all the fruits of their manifold labors…[In response, the other parts of the body] swore to abstain from work and starve the idle public enemy…[By the third day] almost all commenced to be faint…the eyes were found to be dim, the foot failed to sustain the weight of the body, the arms were numb, and the tongue…[could not speak].
Accordingly all took refuge in the counsel of the heart and after deliberation there, it became plain that these ills were all due to that which had before been denounced as the public enemy.
Because the tribute which they paid it was cut off, like a public rationer it withdrew the sustenance of all. And so the stomach was acquitted, which although it is voracious and greedy of that which does not belong to it, yet seeks not for itself but for the others who cannot be nourished if it is empty.
And so it is…in the body of the commonwealth, wherein, though the magistrates are most grasping, yet they accumulate not so much for themselves as for the others. Pope Adrian IV admitted that rulers could be "voracious and greedy," but he suggested such grasping was done for the common good.
The rapaciousness of leaders was necessary to ensure that the state would have sufficient resources in order to operate and in order to ensure that resources were distributed generously to the people. Adrian saw the greed of the patron as essential to the health of the larger political structure. Implicit in Adrian's argument is the notion that only a wealthy patron could be counted on as a reliable source of nourishment for the body politic.
A poor king, pope, or prince would be unable to be generous to the people. A humble and impoverished leader could not "attend…to the common utility of all. Adrian freely admitted that there is a high cost associated with government. He seems to say that the effective state must be greedy. For patronage to flow from the hands of the leader, tribute must flow into the leader's treasury. In using this image, Adrian was drawing on an old tradition. Classical Greek and Roman political thinkers had often compared the political community to the body.
But, while philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle had always equated political leadership with the head or the brain, the seat of decision—making and thought, Adrian said the leaders should be compared to the stomach instead.
Adrian told a fanciful story about how the other parts of the body once became critical of the stomach because it only consumed while they all did the work. They noted that while the eyes did the seeing, the ears the hearing, the feet the walking, and the tongue the talking, the stomach was idle. Yet, it consumed everything.
Political Clientelism - Oxford Handbooks
From the perspective of the other body parts, it seemed that the stomach's only action was to eat what came to the body through their efforts. As a result, those parts of the body decided to go on strike against the stomach. No longer, they agreed, would they put anything into the lazy stomach. The result, said Adrian, was nearly fatal because all the parts became too weak to function. After giving the matter some thought, they realized their plight had come about because of what they had done to their supposed idle enemy.
They finally realized that the stomach was the most essential organ of the body for it served as a supplier for all the other parts. If the stomach went hungry, all went hungry. Newly enlightened, the other body parts then decided to "fill the stomach. The stomach, asserted Adrian, should not be regarded as evil. The stomach was not eating just for itself, but for the entire body. Pope Adrian's point was that the patronage in a political system should be respected and accepted, not condemned.
Instead of begrudging the lavish rewards obtained by high church or political leaders, people should recognize the essential nature of their leaders' work.
How power corrupts in Kabul
Explicitly comparing the food entering the stomach to tribute demanded by temporal princes, Adrian reminded John of Salisbury that without very large inflows of wealth into the political system, nothing could flow back to government functionaries or to the people themselves. Like a paymaster in the army, a king, pope, or prince could distribute goods and services in the commonwealth only so long as resources were coming in constantly. The Middle Ages At the popular level, medieval ideas of government were even more supportive of patron—client concepts.
The medieval lord or knight was portrayed as the beneficent embodiment of the big man, the central figure in a patron—client system.
As can be seen in medieval mythology such as the stories of King Arthurthe big man was regarded as a defender of the peace who slew supernatural foes such as dragons and protected the people against temporal foes such as robbers and enemy warriors. The big man was also a defender of truth and morality.
While Arthur's knights searched for the Holy Graila symbolic way of saying that they sought the restoration of divine grace and perfection on earth, other medieval big men struggled to destroy Muslims and Turks, people thought to epitomize aggressive forms of chaos and evil. Finally, the big man was regarded as an individual of great strength, courage, and piety. Social order and good government did not come because of structured and institutionalized bureaucracies or systems.
Rather, they depended upon the personal qualities and character of a big man at the center. Such leaders had more in common with the ancient heroes like Deborah or Odysseus than with modern monarchs or tyrants. The Middle Ages marked both the high point of patron—client political systems and the beginning of modern authoritarian monarchies that can be seen as institutionalized and centralized adaptations of patron—client arrangements.
Therefore, the medieval period was marked by thinkers making an intellectual transition to monarchy. The great medieval theologian and political thinker Thomas Aquinas — saw patron—clientage as consistent with the very nature of the universe God had created. First, like the ancient Greeks, Aquinas observed that human beings, and even many animals, were intended to live in groups.
Second, Aquinas believed that just as the universe required a divine creator and guide, the human community needed a political guide or head. Although Aquinas was speaking of monarchies, he noted that kings bore a certain resemblance to the father pater or patron of a household.
Thus, Aquinas continued to think of the monarchy in terms of patron—client concepts. Very suspicious of democracy, he insisted that the best political system would be organized around a father—like figure. But, rejecting tyranny, he insisted that political rule must aim at the common good of the multitude rather than the private good of the ruler. The ruler, said Aquinas, must function as a shepherd whose task is too feed the flocks.
Unlike Adrian IV, Aquinas was not willing to justify the most crass elements of the patron—client system. While Adrian defended the greedy patron, Aquinas said "woe to the shepherds that feed themselves," and he condemned the tyrant who "seeks his own benefit. He only insisted that the sheep as well as the shepherd should be fed. It is evident that for both Pope Adrian and Aquinas, the image of "eating" was central to the patron—client system.
But, this concept was most fully developed in African political thought. In traditional Africa, political ideology was recorded not in books or letters, but in myths and legends passed down from one generation to another through oral recitation. By telling stories, many of them entirely imaginary, African people expressed their opinions about what worked, what was moral, and what had always existed.
Often their deepest political and social values were articulated by describing a man or woman who supposedly was the original human being, the first settler in the land, the founding chief, or the initial farmer or hunter. That person and his or her actions were regarded as normative for all times. What they did was seen as ideal and a model for successive generations.
The Legend of Kuaba Legendary stories of political origins in Africa describe a patron—client system. The Kanyok people who live in the Congo tell one story about an original settler—chief named Kuaba. The term kuaba means "to distribute". According to the tale, Kuaba was a great hunter who came to a land where people did not know how to hunt. He killed a large animal and distributed the meat to the grateful locals.
As a result, the local people made Kuaba the distributor their chief, and his descendants have continued to rule the area. Clearly, Kuaba is a big man in a patron—client system. Had he lived in modern America, his name would not have been "Kuaba" but instead would have been " Pork Barrel. Other Kanyok stories affirm the central importance of patron— clientage to politics. Many stories talk of chiefs who fell from power because they became drunk and failed to hold a feast or distribute food.
The accusation of drunkenness was another way of saying a chief was inept or weak. The failure to hold a feast was a symbol for not sustaining the practice of redistribution, which was essential to the entire patron—client system. Kings and chiefs did not lose their office because they refused to follow the law, because they were dishonest, because they made unpopular appointments, or because they did not protect human rights.
Rather, they fell from power because they were unable to redistribute political spoils to their supporters. As a result, their followers drifted away and transferred their allegiance to another chief or contender for office. The true test of a system was not whether it was law—abiding, democratic, or efficient in terms of achieving goals. The true test was its success in satisfying the people through the practice of pork barrel politics.
While in much of Africa patron—client values have remained the ideal even in modern times, in Western society patron—clientage has given way to more supposedly rational forms of politics and economics. In The Prince, Machiavelli rejected the idea of generous material liberality, the lynchpin of patron—clientage.
Machiavelli noted that a ruler who spent his or her own resources on building up a base of supporters would eventually run out of wealth and lose the ability to retain people's loyalty. A ruler who spent the resources of others would need to tax or plunder his subjects to obtain the means to maintain the patronage system.
Such a policy would result in resentment and hostility leading to disloyalty and even revolt. Better, Machiavelli argued, to be seen as a miser than as rapacious. Rousseau and Beyond Later Western political thinkers unanimously agreed that the capricious and materialistic aspects of the patron—client system were both inefficient and immoral. Swiss—French philosopher Jean—Jacques Rousseau — is but one example of such thinkers. To some extent, twentieth—century governments, whether democratic or authoritarian, follow in the wake of Rousseau.
Like virtually all other modern thinkers, Rousseau vests complete authority in the state. While one may argue about whether he was a precursor of democracy or totalitarianism, it is clear that he left no place for individual challenges to the sovereignty of government. A legitimate government expressed the "general will" that superceded all expressions of parochial interests. There was no place for selfishness in Rousseau's state. The rule of law, not the rule of individual patrons, was the only guarantee of human freedom.
In any case, with Rousseau and almost all thinkers since his time, political philosophers assumed that equality and impartiality were essential for a well—functioning government. One person—one vote, secret ballots, impartiality before the bar of justice, and equal access to all government services are key components of political systems that reject the principles of patron—clientage.
Modern governments, whether democratic or authoritarian, claim to be fair, impersonal, and predictable. Systems not heroes, budgets not bribes, and courts not connections are supposed to govern political affairs in the modern state. The thinker who did the most to challenge the moral and philosophical underpinnings of patron— client practices was Jeremy Bentham — A child prodigy, Bentham developed the intellectual foundations of modern utilitarianism. In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and LegislationBentham argued that the only legitimate basis for judging any political action was to measure the pleasure or pain that action produced.
Reason tells us, he said, that no one can justify actions that result in more pain than pleasure. Even painful endeavors such as war or punishment of criminals are carried out in the expectation of reducing pain and increasing pleasure in the long run.
Central to Bentham's thought was the idea that pleasure and pain needed to be judged according to how extensively they were experienced. While criminal activity might conceivably bring pleasure to one individual, the sum total of the pain experienced by the many victims would far exceed the sum total of the pleasure experienced by the criminal.
While a bribe might benefit both the giver and the taker, their gains would be more than offset by the totality of losses to society as a whole. Bentham's reasoning led him to reject political actions or systems that rewarded individuals at the expense of the larger group. Predictably, he opposed all patron—client arrangements. One of Bentham's central ideas was that all political appointments should be based on merit and that merit must be ascertained through open and competitive examinations.
More than any other thinker, Jeremy Bentham has been credited with having affected the direction of modern British domestic politics. Many of his followers were elected to Parliament, where they put his principles into law. In the s, Britain adapted a public health system, a national education system, open competition for civil service jobs, and more rational methods of organizing government departments.
All of these reforms resulted in more equitable government systems that provided higher levels of service to every citizen regardless of social standing or personal connections. Now, people had a right to government assistance simply because they were English citizens, not because they managed to attach themselves to a powerful patron.
Now, individuals were appointed to positions of leadership because of competence and intelligence rather than because of their family or wealth. While actual practices often fell short of these ideals, nineteenth—century England did make important progress in moving away from a patron—client system. John Rawls John Rawls —who speaks of the importance of a "veil of ignorance," built an entire theory of justice on principles that challenge the deepest inclinations of people operating patron—client systems.
His theory proposes that a person's wealth or status should have no bearing on governmental policy. To make this happen, Rawls argues that every decision—maker should act as though he or she has no knowledge of whether they would benefit or lose from their decision, no knowledge of their social standing or economic position, and no knowledge of their strengths or weaknesses.
Any expectation of personal gain or advantage should be put aside when public affairs are at stake. Thus, taxes should be assessed with the complete fairness and objectivity that could come only if the decision—maker could not know how he or she would be affected. Thus, legal penalties, zoning decisions, or constitutional changes should always be put into place by people acting as though they have no inkling of the consequences for themselves. In contrast to Rawls' veil of ignorance, a patron—client system is based on the premise that every political decision is made in order to give special advantage to favored individuals.
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Bentham and Rawls are but two of many modern political thinkers struggling with the issue of objectivity and fairness.
For these thinkers, a concern for absolute even—handedness and impartiality represents one of the most critical tests of any good government policy. A second set of tests measures efficiency. Can a given policy or action be implemented with the lowest possible cost and effort for the greatest possible result? Political philosophers such as Rawls and Bentham are the ideological voices of modern government. Whether democratic or authoritarian, all modern governments have gained, or claim to have gained, a monopoly over the values and resources that had once been controlled by successful patrons for unequal distribution to their clients.
Modern bureaucracies regularize everything so that favoritism is both difficult and illegal. He cannot prosecute everyone. So, most likely, his targets will be the president's adversaries and rivals. A brave independent prosecutor — and there have been some such as Kenya's John Githongo — may try to do otherwise, but he won't last long. We can predict the same for Afghanistan's attorney general Mohammad Ishaq Aloko.
Ironically, an anti-corruption drive can become an instrument of political favouritism. In traditional patronage systems, clients took their rewards in status aristocratic titles and ribbonsas well as currency. This allowed a ruler to regulate the system, and keep it cheap enough to run so that there could be funds left over for public goods such as schools or a professional police force.
Today's military-political entrepreneurs insist on dollars. They have offshore bank accounts and bargain by satellite phone. The price of loyalty has shot up in a deregulated, volatile and globalised political marketplace. Narco-traffickers, American generals and Gulf princes have all bid up the going rate for loyalty, and if Karzai were foolish enough to submit his budget to the World Bank's scrutiny, he wouldn't be able to compete at all.
Instead, he has relied on foreign troops to artificially distort the market, using force to drive down the price. Unsurprisingly, Nato couldn't buck the market, and instead has become part of it. In fact, customary patronage has been corrupted. Back inAmerica stumped up the Pashtun warlords' asking price in return for assurances of short-term loyalty, backed by a show of force. Another thing to add is how the political landscapes differ between Singapore and Malaysia. The press has a role to play.
In Malaysia, they have newspapers that cater to the ruling party as we saw in Utusan Malaysia that was passed around.
However, there are also other newspapers and information provided by opposition parties such as PAS to point out the certain flaws of the ruling parties including corruption and deviation from traditional muslim values.
Furthermore, the Malaysian economy had slowed down, resulting in many people losing their jobs or failing to keep up with increased standards of living, thereby opening their eyes to catch more flaws of the government.
In Singapore, it is vastly different. The state has already slammed their credibility, especially the former, till the electorate no longer sees them as viable alternatives to the PAP government. Even if there were truth in such news, would people buy them? There may not be corruption known to the population but that does not mean there is an absolute absence of corruption in Singapore.
Corruption must have endemic during the postwar years, and that was why the PAP campaigned in on an anti-corruption platform. It was also the reason why much effort was made to portray the party as an incorruptible one, right down to the visual aesthetics of ensuring candidates wear white even till this day. This shows that corruption was rampant in Singapore at one time, and it is largely the result of PAP measures over the course of half a century to clamp down on it.
However, this does not negate patron-client relationships from developing. It merely means they develop along other paths. Justin has correctly pointed out the fact that many members of the Lee family hold high positions in government and society. This is a testament of their capabilities, as well as how well positioned and connected they are to the higher echelons of society.