Patrimonial rise and decline. The strange case of the familial state

Political Power and Social Theory

ISBN: 978-0-76231-418-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-545-1

ISSN: 0198-8719

Publication date: 7 September 2008


Whenever we speak of patrimonialism, the reference is to the rule of the pater. Weber theorizes this connection from a genetic perspective. The prototype of patrimonial governance is the household. The patrimonial ruler manages his realm as he would manage his household according to rules of traditional wisdom. This genetic and naturalist model makes patriarchy a constitutive dimension of patrimonial practices. In this conception, patrimony implies the dominion of fathers. Patrimonial officials are bound to be male.3 At least this is what we think. And we are all the more inclined to think so if we assume that the rule of the fathers is a fact of nature grounded in a biological necessity. Etymology comforts this bias: the reference to gender, being inscribed in the term, lends credence to a substantialist interpretation.


Ermakoff, I. (2008), "Patrimonial rise and decline. The strange case of the familial state", Davis, D. and Proenza-Coles, C. (Ed.) Political Power and Social Theory (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 253-271.

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