political machine


political machine

In U.S. politics, a political organization that controls enough votes to maintain political and administrative control of its community. The rapid growth of cities in the 19th century created huge problems for city governments, which were often poorly organized and unable to provide services. Enterprising politicians were able to win support by offering favours, including patronage jobs and housing, in exchange for votes. Though machines often helped to restructure city governments to the benefit of their constituents, they just as often resulted in poorer service (when jobs were doled out as political rewards), corruption (when contracts or concessions were awarded in return for kickbacks), and aggravation of racial or ethnic hostilities (when the machine did not reflect the city's diversity). Reforms, suburban flight, and a more mobile population with fewer ties to city neighbourhoods have weakened machine politics. Famous machines include those of William Magear Tweed (New York), James Michael Curley (Boston), Thomas Pendergast (Kansas City, Mo.), and Richard J. Daley (Chicago). See also civil service.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on political machine, visit Britannica.com.

Seen & Heard

What made you look up political machine? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.

Get Our Free Apps
Voice Search, Favorites,
Word of the Day, and More
Join Us on FB & Twitter
Get the Word of the Day and More