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Nepotism is favoritism granted in politics or business to relatives. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to cardinal positions by Catholic popes and bishops. Nepotism is found in the fields of politics, entertainment, business and religion.


Main article: Cardinal-nephew

The term comes from Italian word nepotismo,[1][2] which is based on Latin root nepos meaning nephew.[3] In the Middle Ages some Catholic popes and bishops, who had taken vows of chastity, and therefore usually had no legitimate offspring of their own, gave their nephews such positions of preference as were often accorded by fathers to son.[4]

Several popes elevated nephews and other relatives to the cardinalate. Often, such appointments were a means of continuing a papal "dynasty".[5] For instance, Pope Callixtus III, head of the Borgia family, made two of his nephews cardinals; one of them, Rodrigo, later used his position as a cardinal as a stepping stone to the papacy, becoming Pope Alexander VI.[6] Alexander then elevated Alessandro Farnese, his mistress's brother, to cardinal; Farnese would later go on to become Pope Paul III.[7]

Paul also engaged in nepotism, appointing, for instance, two nephews, aged 14 and 16, as cardinals. The practice was finally ended when Pope Innocent XII issued the bull Romanum decet Pontificem, in 1692.[4] The papal bull prohibited popes in all times from bestowing estates, offices, or revenues on any relative, with the exception that one qualified relative (at most) could be made a cardinal.[8]

Types of nepotism[]


Nepotism is a common accusation in politics when the relative of a powerful figure ascends to similar power seemingly without appropriate qualifications. The British English expression "Bob's your uncle" is thought to have originated when Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, promoted his nephew, Arthur Balfour, to the esteemed post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, which was widely seen as an act of nepotism.[9]


Nepotism is generally seen as entirely unethical, both on the part of the person providing nepotic opportunities and on the part of the person receiving what appears to be a favor. However, Adam Bellow's book In Praise of Nepotism (2006), and also a recent book published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Nepotism in Organizations, 2012) suggest that this appearance of ethical breech may be just that--an appearance.

In the case of the person providing the opportunity, the family member being offered the job may have abilities that are legitimate predictors of superior performance on the job. Examples of this are common in sports and the arts. The nepotee may also have a degree of commitment to the organization's mission which, when combined with legitmate abilities, makes them more likely to remain with the organization than other, equally qualified candidates for the job, who would not stay as long or work as hard to benefit the organization.

In the case of the nepotee, who enters a job (with or without adequate skills), there may be an element of coercion not obvious to outside observers. So, although the nepot (usually a senior family member) is behaving unethically, the nepotee is following the dictates of conscience or loyalty, in order to help a business survive. This appears to be a common dilemma in farming.

To conclude that all nepotic behavior is "bad" based on vivid stories of unethical behavior is to miss the possibility that family businesses are the most common form of work organizations for some very legitimate reasons. For every example of a dysfunctional business choice, there are others showing that family relationships in work situations can be highly functional for both customers and society more generally. The fact that we hear so much more about the "bad" cases suggests that people are seeking to support a prejudice against the appearance of favoritism in its absence. And one need not look far to find examples of highly successful firms that started as family organizations (e.g. Walmart, Ford Motor Co., Walgreen's).


Anna Bligh, who won the 2009 Queensland State election, has been accused of nepotism by giving her husband Greg Withers a position as the Office of Climate Change head.[10]

Shortly after his appointment as Archbishop of Sydney in 2001, Peter Jensen was accused, in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview, of nepotism after nominating his brother Phillip Jensen as Dean of Sydney and appointing his wife Christine Jensen to an official position in the Sydney diocese.[11]


Over the past decade, criticism has been growing over the creation of political dynasties in Belgium, in which all of the traditional political parties have been involved. This phenomenon has been explained by the fact that prominent party members control the ranking of candidates on party lists for elections and a candidate's place on a list determines whether or not he or she is elected. Another justification for the phenomenon is the importance of name recognition for collecting votes.[12]

Claims of nepotism have been made against Bruno Tobback, the son of senator and former minister Louis Tobback, a member of the Flemish socialists, became the Belgian federal government's minister for the pensions and environment at 35 in 2005.[13] Alexander De Croo, the son of former speaker of the Belgian parliament Herman De Croo, ran for the leadership of his father's party Open VLD at age 33.[14] Finally there is the example of Maya Detiège, the daughter of former mayor of the city of Antwerp Leona Detiège, who herself is the daughter of the former mayor of Antwerp Frans Detiège.[12]


Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior members of Parliament, are also known for their hand in getting family members into government positions. In the 2013 Cambodian parliamentary elections, at least eight candidates standing in the upcoming July election are sons of high-ranking Cambodian People’s Party officials.[15] All ruling party sons lost, but were appointed into high government positions.


For about 3,000 years, nepotism was common in China's clan and extended family based culture. Confucius wrote about the importance of balancing "filial piety with merit". The clan-based feudal system collapsed during Confucius' lifetime, yet nepotism has continued through the modern age.[16] For instance, Zhang Hui, was believed to have his career "expedited" through the intervention of his uncle, Li Jianguo, Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the National People’s Congress. Hui was made the youngest member and secretary of Jining's Municipal Standing Committee at the age of 32.[17]

See also: Princelings


In October 2009, Jean Sarkozy was poised to become EPAD's director despite lacking a diploma and professional experience.[18] He was voted regional councillor of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 2008.[19]

Pierre Sarkozy, first son of then President Nicolas Sarkozy, asked SCPP[dead link]

for a financial help in September 2009 of around €10000 towards an (€80000) artistic project. Because he was not a SCPP member, the request was automatically rejected. Sarkozy then went to the Élysée which lead to an Élysée counsel contacting the SCPP, and SCPP president Marc Guez assuring the issue would soon be favorably resolved.[20][21] According to Abeille Music president and SCPP member Yves Riesel, however, this would not happen as SCPP's financial help has been restricted to members only for months.[22]


Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's family members "dominated" the country for decades.[23][24] Elena Băsescu, the daughter of President Traian Băsescu, was elected in 2009 to the European Parliament, despite the fact that she had no significant professional or political experience.[25]


There is Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1980 to 2001: his son, Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2001, while his daughter, Maria Teresa Samaranch Salisachs, has been president of the Spanish Federation of Sports on Ice since 2005.[26] Nepotism occurred in Spanish Colonial America when offices were given to family members.[27]

Sri Lanka[]

See also: Rajapaksa family

Mahinda Rajapaksa has been accused of nepotism, appointing three brothers to run important ministries and other political positions for relatives, regardless of their merit. The Rajapaksa family hold the ministries of finance, defence, ports and aviation, highways and road development. The president's brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, was given the post of Defence Secretary. He also controls the armed forces, the police and the Coast Guard, and is responsible for immigration and emigration. Rajapaksa appointed his brother Basil Rajapaksa as minister of Economic Development. Together, the Rajapaksa brothers control over 70% of Sri Lanka's public budget. Mahinda Rajapaksa's eldest brother, Chamal Rajapaksa, is also the current Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, and has held many other posts before, while his eldest son, Namal Rajapaksa, is also a member of the parliament and holds undisclosed portfolios.[28][29]

Others include: his nephew, Shashindra Rajapaksa, who is the Chief minister of Uva; one of his cousins, the Sri Lankan ambassador to the United States, Jaliya Wickramasuriya; and another cousin, Udayanga Weeratunga, who is the ambassador to Russia. Dozens of nephews, nieces, cousins, and in-laws have also been appointed as heads of banks, boards, and corporations.[29]


Nepotism is known to be practiced by President of the Venezuela National Assembly, Cilia Flores. Nine positions in the National Assembly were filled by Flores' family members, including a mother-in-law, aunt, 3 siblings, a cousin and his mother, and 2 nephews.[30][31][32]

United Kingdom[]

In February 2010, Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said that more than 200 MPs used Parliamentary allowances to employ their own relatives in a variety of office roles. He suggested that the practice should be banned.[33]

In 2005, Councillor Ann Reid of York arranged for all nine sets of traffic lights on her daughter Hannah's wedding route through York to be switched to green for the five-car convoy. As a result, the wedding party took only 10 minutes to pass through the city.[34]

North Yorkshire Police's Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell was disciplined by the IPCC in 2011, but refused to resign, after admitting that he assisted a relative through the first stages of a recruitment process [35]

Northern Ireland[]

Many Northern Irish politicians employ family members. In 2008, 19 elected politicians of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) directly employed family members and relatives constituted 27 of its 136 staff.[36]

United States[]

Around 30 family members or relatives of President Ulysses S. Grant prospered financially in some way from either government appointments or employment.[37]

John F. Kennedy made his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General.[38]

In December 2012, a report from Washington Post, indicate various nepotism practices from D.C Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA). One of the reasons was “But if [only if] they’re qualified and competed for it on their own, I don’t see a problem with relatives working in the same organization.” The relatives are mom, daughter, son-in-law, son, daughter-in-law, and brother.[39] The inspector general of the Transportation Department and Congress pressured the Authority to resolve practices of nepotism. Authority employees are no longer allowed to directly or indirectly influence hiring or promotion of relatives, as documented in their ethics policy.[40]

In entertainment[]

Outside of national politics, accusations of "nepotism" are made in instances of prima facie favoritism to relatives, in such cases as:

  • Peaches Geldof's role as magazine editor in an MTV reality show - produced by a company owned by her father Bob Geldof.[41]
  • Hollywood's The Coppola family includes many distinguished filmmakers and actors. The careers of Sofia Coppola, Nicolas Cage, and Jason Schwartzman have been attributed to aid by director Francis Ford Coppola, who cast his daughter Sofia in The Godfather Part III.[42][43] Cage changed his last name in order to distance himself from such charges.[44]
  • The main cast for the HBO series Girls is made up entirely of daughters from notable figures in entertainment, such as Brian Williams and David Mamet.

In employment[]

Nepotism at work can mean increased opportunity at a job, attaining the job or being paid more than other similarly situated people.[45] Arguments are made both for and against employment granted due to a family connection, which is most common in small, family run businesses. On one hand, nepotism can provide stability and continuity. Critics cite studies that demonstrate decreased morale and commitment from non-related employees,[46] and a generally negative attitude towards superior positions filled through nepotism. An article from Forbes magazine stated "there is no ladder to climb when the top rung is reserved for people with a certain name."[47]

Types of partiality[]

Nepotism refers to partiality to family whereas cronyism refers to partiality to an associate or friend. Favoritism, the broadest of the terms, refers to partiality based upon being part of a favored group, rather than job performance.[48]

See also[]


  1. "Nepotism." Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  2. In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History. Adam Bellow Booknotes interview transcript. URL accessed on 10 September 2013.
  3. Article nepos. CTCWeb Glossary. URL accessed on 10 September 2013.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Article Nepotism. New Catholic Dictionary. URL accessed on 2007-07-12.[dead link]
  5. (21 March 2002) Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492-1700, 114–116, Cambridge University Press. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  6. Article Pope Alexander VI. New Catholic Dictionary. URL accessed on 2007-07-12.
  7. Article Pope Paul III. Catholic Encyclopedia. URL accessed on 2007-07-12.
  8. Anura Gurugé (16 February 2010). The Next Pope, Anura Guruge. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  9. From Aristotelian to Reaganomics: A Dictionary of Eponyms With Biographies in the Social Science, by R. C. S. Trahair, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994, page 72. Retrieved online from Google Books, Jul 30, 2012.
  10. Houghton, Des (2008-06-28). "Anna Bligh's Labor in trouble in the polls" Couriermail, 28 June 2008. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  11. AM - Archibishop Jensen accused of nepotism. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. URL accessed on 2012-06-22.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Politiek België is familiezaak - Buitenland - [24 uur actueel, ook mobiel] [buitenland]. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  13. Martin Hurst. Tobback: making his mark. Investment & Pensions Europe. IPE International Publishers Limited. URL accessed on 20 June 2013.
  14. Alexander De Croo wil voorzitter Open Vld worden. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  15. Sons of the party anointed. Meas Sokchea. URL accessed on 2013-05-06.
  16. Adam Bellow (13 July 2004). In Praise of Nepotism, 89–92, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. URL accessed 21 June 2013.
  17. Fang Xiao. Chinese Politburo Member Accused of Nepotism. The Epoch Times. URL accessed on 21 June 2013.
  18. includeonly>"Poll shows majority against job for Sarkozy's son",, 2009-10-16. Retrieved on 2011-03-06.
  19. Sarkozy´s Son Climbs New Rung On Political Ladder. Kontineo oglašavanje d.o.o.. URL accessed on 20 June 2013.
  20. Népotisme et Sarkozysme, acte II (màj). URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  21. Après Jean, un coup de pouce de l'Elysée pour Pierre Sarkozy. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  22. Après Jean, l'Elysée se met au service de Pierre Sarkozy. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  23. Adam Bellow (13 July 2004). In Praise of Nepotism, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  24. Edward Behr (21 May 1991). Kiss the hand you cannot bite: the rise and fall of the Ceauşescus, Villard Books. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  25. includeonly>"Search on Elena Băsescu nepotism", Retrieved on 21 June 2013.
  26. includeonly>"La larga carrera de un hombre polifacético", 21 April 2010.. (Spanish)
  27. (22 December 2008) Global Public Relations: Spanning Borders, Spanning Cultures, Routledge. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  28. includeonly>"A war strange as fiction", The Economist, 2007-06-07.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Nov 11, 2010. Asia Times Online :: South Asia news, business and economy from India and Pakistan. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  30. (6 April 2011) The Naked Truth, Xlibris Corporation. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  31. includeonly>Simon Romero. "Chávez family dogged by nepotism claims", The New York Times. Retrieved on 20 June 2013.
  32. Nacional y Política - URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  33. includeonly>"Ban on MP spouse jobs 'essential'", BBC News, 17 February 2010. Retrieved on 27 August 2011.
  34. includeonly>Stokes, Paul. "Councillor turns lights green for daughter's wedding", 18 October 2005. Retrieved on 2011-12-09.
  35. includeonly>"Chief constable remains despite calls for resignation", 12 May 2011.
  36. includeonly>"DUP's two tribes", 22 February 2008.
  37. Lawrence M. Salinger (2005). Encyclopedia of white-collar & corporate crime, Volume 2, 374–375.
  38. (1 September 2007) The PresidentialCongressional Political Dictionary, Wildside Press LLC. URL accessed 20 June 2013.
  39. includeonly>Thomson, Cheryl W.. "D.C. airport authority employment is frequently a family affair", 8 December 2012. Retrieved on 10 December 2012.
  40. Editorial Board. Airports authority must clean up its act on nepotism. The Washington Post. URL accessed on 2013-06-20.
  41. Peaches Geldof bags TV reality show as magazine editor. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.[dead link]
  42. EXTRA: Nepotism in the Director's Chair at. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  43. Nothing is true, everything is permitted - Coppola nepotism hate. URL accessed on 2011-03-06.
  44. Nicolas Cage - imdb biography
  45. Nepotism at Work. URL accessed on 2013-06-20.
  46. Family Ties: Handling Nepotism Within Your Business - Perspectives - Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. URL accessed on 2013-06-20.
  47. Is Nepotism So Bad?. Forbes. URL accessed on 2013-06-20.
  48. Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman. Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism. Santa Clara University. URL accessed on June 20, 2013.

Further reading[]

New Statesman, September 29, 2003.
  • [1] Nepotism in Organizations, 2012

External links[]

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