Patron-client relations pervade international politics. We mostly think about state-to-state relationships between great and small powers, such as the USA patronizing South Korea or Japan, China North Korea or Russia clients in its neighborhood such as Belarus. Such relationships are crucial for patrons aiming to establish spheres of influence and for clients to guarantee their survival and well-being. During the Cold War, they structured the bipolar world along friends and foes of the superpowers.
Patron-client relations are particularly consequential in secessionist conflicts because they can provide secessionists with military, economic and other support to achieve independence and international recognition. Many of those groups could hardly be successful without the support of powerful patrons – think of Russia’s support for the break-away territories in Eastern Ukraine and in Georgia or Turkey’s patronage of Northern Cyprus.
Research on patron-client relations in secessionist conflict is still in its infancy. We are currently preparing an international workshop in Jena to conceptualize the phenomenon.
On the way we realized, for example, that some patrons also support the mother states, and that many of them are non-state actors, such as intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, or media. We identified five critical questions:
- Who are patrons and who are clients?
- How do these often quite asymmetric relations vary in terms of dependence and control?
- Why do patrons and clients enter into and uphold such relations?
- What types of support do patrons supply, how much and how long?
- Which impact do these relationships have on secessionist conflict?
This seminar asks: How can we conceptualize patron-client relations in secessionist conflict? What are the essential properties of such relationships? And how do they affect the course and outcome of conflicts? In the first part, we will jointly read and discuss basic literature on patron-client relations from anthropology, comparative politics and International Relations as well as on secessionism in order to grasp the state of the art. In the second part, students will present case studies of state and non-state patron-client relations (current and historical cases) in specific conflicts, structured along the different dimensions. Since academic knowledge about patron-client relations in secessionist conflict is still quite limited, we will in the third part of the seminar compare the cases and try to refine the concepts we found in the literature.