Keywords: State Administration; Patronage; Clientelism; Catholic Church.
The article investigates the role of informal structures in the history of State and Church administration in Early Modern Europe. According to the author, informal structures were not dysfunctional factors or obstacles to the process of modernization as in Max Weber's perspective, but they coexisted with the development of formal structures and of power as stated by Niklas Luhmann. In the courts of Early Modern Age, the pro¬cess of formalization involved also informal structures, i.e. the networks of personal relationships such as clientelism and patronage. In order to show the functioning of this process, the author focuses on the phenomenon of nepotism in the Papal States be¬tween 1538 and 1692, analyzing the three types of secretary headed by cardinal-nephew (Secretary of State, secretary of patronage and private secretary).