Central and Local Patrimonialism: State-Building in Kin-Based Societies

How useful is the concept of patrimonialism to analyze state formation and political dynamics in postcolonial nation-states? Using Tunisia, Morocco, and Iraq during critical periods of state-building following the end of colonial rule, the author considers this question. The purpose of the article is to build on Max Weber by exploring how patrimonialism operates in kin-based social contexts where power on the basis of kinship ties is exerted not only by a central authority but also by leaders of local communities organized along lines of real or fictive kinship—as was the case in the three countries in the period under examination. Suggesting that Weber undertheorized the way in which central authority relates to local collectivities in his analysis of patrimonialism, the author identifies three patterns in the strategies used by central power toward local patrimonial networks: marginalization, integration, and shifts between marginalization and integration. The article argues that central patrimonialism can be accommodated with all three strategies directed toward local patrimonialism.