Max Weber's Concept of Patrimonialism in the Political Structures of Latin America
The paper explores the reception and utility of Max Weber concept of patrimonialism to study the political structures in Mexico , Brazil and other Latin American countries during the Colonial Times and in the contemporary world. Within the framework of an historical long term comparative analysis, the study shows how -despite the democratic trends of recent decades- neo-patrimonialism can be used as a theoretical perspective to analyze the continuity of political structures and behaviors that explain the preservation of corruption, clientelism, corporativism, leader’s discretionary use of power, and a value system where the legal framework does not always match with everyday practices and morals.
As a subtype of traditional domination, patrimonialism is considered as a pre-bureaucratic type of domination based on personal submission and piety that differs with the power bases of feudalism based on social honor and prestige. Nevertheless, as Weber mentioned in his theoretical-methodological writings, the different forms of dominations should be consider as “ideal types”. As the case of Latin American countries shows, in the different historical realities we often find a combination of them: bureaucratic patrimonialism; patrimonialism domination with charismatic elements of leadership; neo- patrimonial technocracy, and so on.