Nepotism is the granting of jobs to one's relatives or friends in various fields, including business, politics, entertainment, sports, religion and other activities. Nepotism is the act of using one's power to secure better jobs or unfair advantages for a family member when they may not have the right skill, experience or motivation compared to others. The term originated with the assignment of nephews to important positions by Catholic popes and bishops. Instances of business executives expediently hiring their children to their firms, is a modern-day example of nepotism in practise.

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. Favoritism is a part of any human society and the two branches of favoritism are cronyism and nepotism. Situations of nepotism refer to when a politician’s son gets a similar political position in a country, and situations when relatives of high ranking officers get easy positions in their career. This happens despite the relatives lacking the necessary qualifications. Situations of cronyism refer to where someone might get a position in a company since he is a friend of the company CEO. Nepotism and cronyism have negative consequences because the truly qualified and talented people have to face injustices and it eventually leads to corruption and brain drains. Moreover, these three are unethical practices that create social discrimination.[1]

Nepotism has been criticized since the ancient times by several philosophers, including Aristotle, Valluvar, and Confucius. For instance, the ancient Indian philosopher Valluvar condemned nepotism as both evil and unwise.[2]

Origin of the modern concept and etymology

Borrowed from the French term 'Nepotisme', which in turn was derived from Italian 'Nepotismo' and the Latin 'nepōs' (nephews), nepotism refers to the practice of popes appointing relatives during the Middle Age and Renaissance.[3] The term comes from the Italian word nepotismo,[4][5] which is based on the Latin word nepos (nephew).[6]

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 sons.[7]

Several popes elevated nephews and other relatives to the cardinalate. Often, such appointments were a means of continuing a papal "dynasty".[8] 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.[9] Alexander then elevated Alessandro Farnese, his mistress's brother, to cardinal; Farnese would later go on to become Pope Paul III.[10]

Paul III also engaged in nepotism, appointing, for instance, two nephews, aged 14 and 16, as cardinals, as well as making efforts to increase the territories of his illegitimate son Pier Luigi Farnese. The practice was finally limited when Pope Innocent XII issued the bull Romanum decet Pontificem, in 1692.[7] 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.[11]

In ancient literature

Kural literature

In the second book of the Kural literature, which forms a manual for governments and corporations, Valluvar suggests about nepotism and favouritism thus: "If you choose an unfit person for your job just because you love and you like him, he will lead you to endless follies."[12] According to him, nepotism is both evil and unwise.[2]



It 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.[13]

One other recent example is the current Portuguese government which counts no less than 50 nominations within family ties.[14] Another more recent example can be found in the political activity in South Carolina, particularly in relation to Governor Henry McMaster, who initially gained his position after becoming the first high level state official to endorse current President Donald Trump and subsequently rose from lieutenant governor to governor of the state when President Trump appointed Nikki Haley to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.[15][16] Governor McMaster then went on to attempt to force a vote for the President of the University of South Carolina ahead of schedule, and in favor of his favorite candidate, Robert Caslen Jr., former superintendent of West Point Academy who was favored by President Trump and previously interviewed by the Trump administration for the position of National Security Advisor.[17][18]


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.

In employment

Nepotism at work can mean increased opportunity at a job, attaining the job or being paid more than other similarly situated people.[19] 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,[20] 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."[21] 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.[22]

In entertainment

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

See also


  1. Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman. "Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism". Santa Clara University. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  2. Sundaram, P. S. (1990). Tiruvalluvar: The Kural (First ed.). Gurgaon: Penguin Books. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-14-400009-8.
  4. "Nepotism." Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  5. "In Praise of Nepotism: A Natural History". Adam Bellow Booknotes interview transcript. Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  6. "Article nepos". CTCWeb Glossary. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  7. "Article Nepotism". New Catholic Dictionary. Archived from the original on 24 February 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  8. 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.
  9. "Article Pope Alexander VI". New Catholic Dictionary. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  10. "Article Pope Paul III". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  11. Anura Gurugé (16 February 2010). The Next Pope. Anura Guruge. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-615-35372-2. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  13. Trahair, R. C. S. (1994). From Aristotelian to Reaganomics: A Dictionary of Eponyms With Biographies in the Social Science. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 72. ISBN 9780313279614.
  15. Delreal, Jose (7 January 2016). "Trump picks up endorsement from S.C. Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster". Washington Post. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  16. "Trump names Nikki Haley as UN ambassador". BBC. 23 November 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  17. Lucy, Catherine (18 February 2017). "Trump interviewing McMaster, West Point superintendent Caslen and others for security job". Military Times. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  18. Daprile, Lucas (9 July 2019). "McMaster forces vote on controversial USC presidential finalist while students are away". The State. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  19. "Nepotism at Work". 20 April 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  20. "Family Ties: Handling Nepotism Within Your Business – Perspectives – Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick". 9 November 2010. Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  21. Kneale, Klaus. "Is Nepotism So Bad?". Forbes. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  22. 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.
  23. "Peaches Geldof bags TV reality show as magazine editor". Sunday Mirror. Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  24. "On 'So Notorious,' Tori Spelling Mocks Herself Before You Can". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  25. "Tori Spelling admits getting Shannon Doherty fired from Beverly Hills 90210 and lending her dress stained with 'virgin blood' for photoshoot –". Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  26. "EXTRA: Nepotism in the Director's Chair at". 21 April 2000. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  27. "Nothing is true, everything is permitted – Coppola nepotism hate". Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  28. Brockes, Emma (20 July 2013). "Nicolas Cage: 'People think I'm not in on the joke'". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
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