noun cli·en·tel·ism \ˌklī-ən-ˈte-ˌli-zəm\

Definition of clientelism

  1. :  a political or social system based on the relation of client to patron with the client giving political or financial support to a patron (as in the form of votes) in exchange for some special privilege or benefit In some countries, such as Greece, there has been a clear policy of “clientelism” in which political parties have rewarded their supporters with jobs and benefits that have been funded by the general taxpayer. — The Economist, 14 Apr. 2012


\ˌklī-ən-ˈte-list\ play or


\ˌklī-ən-tə-ˈli-stik\ play adjective It is a culture propagated by clientelist politics, which encourages voters to exercise their franchise in return for personal favours and not for the public good. — Brenda Power, The Irish Daily Mail, 31 July 2012 … grant favours to their provincial colleagues in return for the promise of their blocks of votes and these colleagues pass on a proportion of the favours to their middlemen, who return the service by ‘delivering the vote’ for the candidate of the governing clique. It is clientelist in that each of the actors in the game has a number of clients dependent on him, and they in their turn have more clients—until the level of the electorate is reached. — S. E. Finer, Comparative Government, 1975 … his analysis of the US, which he sees as the pioneer of the kind of clientelistic politics that now afflicts so much of sub-Saharan Africa. The US in the 19th century ran on a spoils system, in which parties wooed voters with the promise of jobs and favours. — Adam Kirsch, Prospect, 16 Oct. 2014

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Origin and Etymology of clientelism

clientele + -ism (probably after French clientélisme)

First Known Use: 1913

Seen and Heard

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feeling or affected by lethargy

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