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

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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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He further insists that the bonds would be stronger between a landlord and his tenants than between tenants working for different landowners. Considering that even those tenants who work for different landlords have far more in common than a tenant has with his landlord, this is a large claim to make, and one he does not bother to adequately substantiate. Instead, Scott goes on to discuss vertical versus horizontal organization and to juxtapose church organization with the patron-client model(Scott 1972: 96). This brings to the fore this article's biggest problem: its lack of clarity. Anyone who is not already well versed in political science and different models of organization would be hard pressed to follow Scott's points, since explanation of the terms he uses is all but non-existent. Even with the lack of clarity and poor support for of his claims, Scott's biggest mistake in this article is in attempting to use Western/European models for Southeast Asia. In using the models of one culture to explain and analyze a completely different one, it becomes apparent that not only are his tools not fit for the job, but it gives him the appearance of a condescending Westerner analyzing what he perceives as an inferior and less developed people. While his identification of the key parts of a patron-client model were for the most part accurate, this article did not make any original

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