Short Notes on Nepotism

Nepotism refers to the unfair favoritism shown towards relatives or personal friends by those in power, against co-workers or the deserving candidates. The unfair privileges are given due to the relationships of closeness rather than their abilities. It is derived from an Italian word, nepotism that is again derived from a Latin word Nepos that means nephew.

The term nepotism originated when catholic popes and bishops started assigning their nephews to cardinal positions back in the 14th century. This was because the popes and bishops had taken vows of chastity and had no offspring. So, they gave their opportunities to their nephews. Although then it was done within the field of religion, it can occur in various other fields like politics, business, music, acting, entertainment, organizations, etc.

In political nepotism, a powerful political figure provided similar power which he/she holds to his/her relative or any close acquaintance. For example, suppose a politician nominates three of his sons for an election without them having any early political knowledge. It is a very common occurrence in politics in the contemporary period as members of the ruling party often let their relatives ascend to similar power as theirs.

In organizational nepotism, a person can be given a job in an organization not because he has all the qualifications necessary for the job but because they have familial ties or recommendations which get them the job they want. Even in the line of entertainment, people having connections with the personalities belonging to cinema, radio, television, or art, can achieve easily the posts which commoners cannot even think of getting without going through various auditions, competitions, and so on. This practice is unethical as it obstructs the talented skilled people from occupying those positions.

There are laws that prohibit discrimination in workplaces based on race, ethnicity, caste, class, etc. Since nepotism leads to discriminating deserving candidates for preferring close relatives, such laws can be applied to prohibit this practice as well. The employees who have become the victims of such discrimination must be able to show that the employer was discriminatory based on any of the above-mentioned categories. Many workplaces even have policies to prevent nepotism.

Another concept called ethnic nepotism is central to sociology which states about the human tendency for in group bias or favoritism deriving from nepotism. This is mostly seen within a multi ethnic society towards people of the same ethnicity. This term emerged in the 1960s in the backdrop of ethnic tensions arising in the then Sub-Saharan Africa such as Nigeria which had become independent recently. Nepotism is a very sensitive issue that has become the subject of controversies and debates. While on one hand, people argue that they have every right to use their resources for the benefit of their offspring and relatives, on the other hand, others oppose it viewing that we being a part of a non-discriminatory free country should get equal opportunities without being subject to biasness.

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Sabnam, pursuing Sociology from Miranda House, Delhi University hails from the land of red River, Assam. She is a pure non-realist, because, as she puts it, "reality hurts and pain is not what I endure but what I pour into paper!".