The Rebirth of Patronage: Have We Come Full Circle?

Mary K. Feeney, Gordon Kingsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Current trends in the U.S. political system threaten an increase in patronage and a return to the political problems of the 1800s. Modern-day patronage is strongly related to two popular efforts to reform government: the rollback of the civil service system and the privatization of government services. These reforms, aimed at reducing the negative outcomes of bureaucracy, have had the unfortunate outcome of eliminating policies designed to protect civil servants from patronage politics and thus of ultimately reducing democratic accountability. Whether the main cause is forgetfulness about the past or simply the application of misguided principles, the dismantling of the civil service and increasing reliance on private contractors can endanger public values and the ability to engage in a thoughtful debate about public values. Professionalism in government—including civil service, open competition for jobs and contracts, and merit systems—remains the most effective and just means for combating patronage and identifying talented, dedicated public servants and contractors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-176
Number of pages12
JournalPublic Integrity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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