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Neopatrimonialism in Latin America: Prospects and Promises of a Neglected Concept

GIGA Working Paper, No. 153, November 2010

Neopatrimonialism relates to the co‐existence of two different logics of political domination: legal‐rational rule, which is associated with modern statehood, and patrimonial rule, which corresponds to the traditional type of domination. In recent years, the concept has been applied to characterize political authority in a number of states in different world regions. But despite the fact that elements of neopatrimonial rule can also be found in many Latin American countries, the concept has not taken hold in the scholarship carried out on that region. This paper first explains how neopatrimonialism relates to the dominant approaches in the scholarly debates on Latin American politics, and then it discusses the potential benefits of the concept of neopatrimonialism. It argues that neopatrimonialism provides a more complex characterization of political rule on both the political and the administrative levels than more frequently applied concepts such as neopopulism.

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