Patron-Client networks vs Rational BureaucraciesThis is a featured page

In the lecture, a comparison of the Patron-Client networks and Rational Bureaucracies was made and this led me to wonder, in today’s highly competitive and materialistic society, can patron-client networks exist?

In a recent convention in Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong has called upon Chinese entrepreneurs to upgrade themselves and break out from the traditional ways of handling down their business to the younger generations when there may be more capable people out there to take on the job. He also emphasized how ‘guan xi’ or connections are no longer sufficient for businesses to survive in this global economy.

Indeed, in the global economy of today, especially in the case of Singapore’s meritocratic system, one can hardly rely on the connections or relationships that one has to get ahead in his/her career. Doing so will very often lead to unpleasant gossips and unwanted attention. Having had friends who have worked in established companies, I have had them complaining how cruel and competitive the people at the workplace may be and how some may undertake all means to get ahead.

While this is not to say this is always the case, we cannot deny that such a phenomenon does exist in most companies where there may not so much of an incentive to treat your colleagues well if that does not promise you a promotion or a pay raise. As we become increasingly materialistic and profit-driven, the value of social relations may be eroded in the process of our mindless pursuit of wealth.

On the other hand, however, patron-client networks may lead to an unfair distribution of wealth as the poor may have limited access to employment opportunities that are exclusive only to the wealth, thus further widening the social and income gap between the rich and the poor. Therefore, while rational bureaucracies allows a fairer distribution of wealth based on one’s capabilities, it inevitably lead to a competitive culture where people work against one another to be the best. It is then essential that people are reminded that wealth should not be the sole pursuit in one’s life.


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