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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rjyk exchanges based on "guan xi" 1 Nov 1 2011, 3:14 AM EDT by lecarg
Thread started: Oct 31 2011, 6:59 AM EDT  Watch
Although the highly competitive business environment of today’s economy is characterized by widespread bureaucratic organization, I feel that the future of “guan xi” in our modern exchanges is not as bleak as it seems to be. This is perhaps one of those times when the truth that we, as humans, are actually not as rational as we like to declare ourselves to be, calls for celebration. Take for example, if you are currently working enjoyably in a company where your boss and colleagues treat you very well and you have been working there for years, but every month you wished that you had a higher salary so that you can consume more leisure goods. And suddenly someone from another company offers you a fatter paycheck if you were to join them. Will you choose to “hop over”? Based on rationality, you will because the economic benefits. However, some of us will actually choose to stay because of we treasure our “relationship” with the company (“guan xi”).

The patron-client networks are more prevalent in the marketplace not governed by strict rules of exchange, and where bargaining or negotiation is possible. Discounts are sometimes given to retain customer loyalty and to establish “guan xi” with the customers who will ensure patronage in future. However, such a situation is possible in today’s society only when goods of exchange are relatively homogeneous and not differentiated by branding, where the customers will patronize stalls which they have already established “guan xi” with.
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