Current conceptualizations of political clientelism are inadequate on two related grounds: they do not clearly specify the distinctive characteristics of the clientelistic association and the impact of such associations on the development of the political system. The framework here offered, which is based on Homans’ and Blau's exchange theory, is an attempt to meet both analytical requirements. It suggests that a clientelistic association is a dyadically structured grouping based on direct asymmetrical exchange. More importantly, this framework tells us something about the functioning and the pattern of development of a clientelistic system as a whole. On the basis of our scheme, we may predict for such a system a highly individualistic type of political participation, weak legitimation of political leaders, a very fragmented pattern of allocation of political resources and, finally, a process of cooptation of opposition leaders by the party in power.