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Definition: Patrimonialism is a social system in which a royal elite rules through personal and arbitrary control over a bureaucracy and over slaves, mercenaries, and conscripts who have no power themselves and serve only to enforce the monarch’s rule. It has been found most often in Asia and China in particular. Patrimonial systems have been far less stable and more prone to revolutions than other types of systems and Max Weber argued that they have also been unlikely to lead to sustained economic or social development.

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