Nepotism is the granting of favour to relatives in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to important positions by Catholic popes and bishops. Trading parliamentary employment for favors is a modern-day example of nepotism. Criticism of nepotism, however, can be found in ancient Indian texts such as the Kural literature.
Nepotism refers to partiality to family whereas cronyism refers to partiality to a partner or friend. Favoritism, the broadest of the terms, refers to partiality based upon being part of a favored group, rather than job performance.
The term comes from the Italian word nepotismo, which is based on the Latin word nepos meaning 'nephew'. Since the Middle Ages and until the late 17th century, 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.
Several popes elevated nephews and other relatives to the cardinalate. Often, such appointments were a means of continuing a papal "dynasty". 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. Alexander then elevated Alessandro Farnese, his mistress's brother, to cardinal; Farnese would later go on to become Pope Paul III.
Paul III also engaged in nepotism, appointing, for instance, two nephews, aged 14 and 16, as cardinals. The practice was finally limited when Pope Innocent XII issued the bull Romanum decet Pontificem, in 1692. 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.
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. One other recent example is the current Portuguese government which counts no less than 50 nominations within family ties.
Nepotism can also occur within organizations when a person is employed due to familial ties. It is generally seen as unethical, both on the part of the employer and employee.
Nepotism at work can mean increased opportunity at a job, attaining the job or being paid more than other similarly situated people. 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, 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." Some businesses forbid nepotism as an ethical matter, considering it too troublesome and disruptive. According to an article published in Journal of Economic impact "Financially strong families can easily influence on the hiring process for obtaining a job.
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.
- Tori Spelling's breakout role on Beverly Hills, 90210 as a result of her father Aaron Spelling's involvement with the show.
- Hollywood's 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. Cage changed his last name in order to distance himself from such charges.
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- Gianvittorio Signorotto; Maria Antonietta Visceglia (21 March 2002). Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492–1700. Cambridge University Press. pp. 114–116. ISBN 978-1-139-43141-5. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
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- Kneale, Klaus. "Is Nepotism So Bad?". Forbes. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Khaliq, Muhammad Tanveer; Imran, Muhammad Ali; Ullah, Sammi; Bakhsh, Allah; Aslam, Manan; Tahir, Nimra; Yasin, Mudassar (25 March 2019). "The Impact of Nepotism on Employment Status in Public Sector Institutions: An Evidence from Fresh Graduates of Pakistan". Journal of Economic Impact. 1 (1): 07–11.
- "Peaches Geldof bags TV reality show as magazine editor". Sunday Mirror. Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
- "On 'So Notorious,' Tori Spelling Mocks Herself Before You Can". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
- "Tori Spelling admits getting Shannon Doherty fired from Beverly Hills 90210 and lending her dress stained with 'virgin blood' for photoshoot – Independent.ie". Retrieved 14 August 2017.
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- "Nothing is true, everything is permitted – Coppola nepotism hate". Spiritof1976.livejournal.com. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
- Brockes, Emma (20 July 2013). "Nicolas Cage: 'People think I'm not in on the joke'". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2018.