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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #20A: Elitism   Worldview Theme #20B: Authoritarianism
Contrast Worldview Themes #20A and #21A --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!           

art and status -- from an evolutionary biology viewpoint art seems rather useless, and explanations for its widespread appeal and persistence lead to economic and psychology of status considerations. It has been charged that many collect art works -- not for their aesthetic merits -- to engage in conspicuous consumption or to bolster their claim to belonging to some elite class.

corporate executive pay issues--According to many observers of top U.S. companies, the ratio of top corporate executive compensation to that of an ordinary private sector worker is excessively large. Based on figures compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies, in 2005 average annual CEO compensation for the top 350 American companies was $11.6 million, whereas that same year the average American worker made $28,300. Dividing the former number by the latter yields a ratio of 411 to 1.  This ratio is up from 100 to 1in 1990, and is much higher than the corresponding 11 to 1 ratio in Japan.  While some feel all such high corporate executive compensation is unjustified, many single out the outrageously high salaries, bonuses, and severance pay packages of executives who led companies which performed poorly.

corporate state -- a term used by those who believe that government and large corporations are run by the same people and are so intermeshed that corporate goals and policy and government goals and policy are essentially the same

democracy -- government by the people, typically controlled by majority vote of the people as a whole, as opposed to government controlled by a particular class, group, or individual. 

democratic elitism -- the belief that, not all the people, but only “the best” (experts, the well educated, those who have proven themselves capable, etc) should be allowed to vote or otherwise determine important public matters. Example: A local school board composed of doctors, lawyers, university professors, bankers, business owners, etc. -- not farmers, factory workers, housewives, etc. -- determines the policies of a school district.

discrimination-- prejudicial treatment of people based on their being different (in race, religion, appearance, ability, etc.)  In some jurisdictions certain forms of discrimination are outlawed; elsewhere they can lead to policies and practices that harm particular groups. 

elitism--has three related but yet distinct meanings: 1) situations where the leadership and rule of many is by a select few: an elite;  2) belief that "the best"--those set apart from others by ability, experience, wealth, etc.-- should govern, lead or be granted the most influence; 3) one's conscious belief that he or she belongs to the elite

entitlement, sense of—a state or condition in which one feels deserving and worthy of particular benefits, privileges, or rewards (including respect) without needing to provide additional demonstration of worthiness.  Favorably perceiving one’s status or valuing one’s background relative to others’ can produce a sense of entitlement that is exclusive.

ethnocentrism -- adopting the social standards of one’s own culture or ethnic group as the basis for evaluating the social practices, customs, beliefs, etc. of another culture -- and doing so because you believe your society’s values and way of living are superior to those of other cultures.

exclusive -- excluding others from participating. American writer, poet and populist Carl Sandburg, whose works included a 1936 book entitled The People, Yes! , when asked what word he most detested, replied, “exclusive”.

feudal society--the dominant social order of the Middle Ages in Europe (and perhaps elsewhere) in which power was decentralized: resting in an aristocratic, land-owning elite who provided peasants with protection and land to till in exchange for labor and part of what the land produced.  The Catholic Church was heavily invested in this system: its moral authority counterbalancing the civil / military authority and associated injustice.

fundamentalism, the poor and social justice-- the failure of the government to do much for improving the plight of the poor has resulted in those people in many parts of the world turning instead to religious fundamentalist groups--particularly Islamic-- for help. As William Dalrymple describes it, "...much of the Islamists' success in Pakistan and elsewhere comes from their ability to portray themselves as champions of social justice, fighting Westernized elites."

government, branches of--in western democratic and other governments there typically are three: 1) the legislative, which often consists of elected representatives who make laws, 2) the executive, often including the head of the government, is responsible for enforcing laws and the daily functioning / administration of the state, 3) the judicial, typically consisting of courts, judges, etc., interprets the law and administers justice.  Ideally, a separation of powers gives each branch independence, while providing checks and balances against abuse.

lobbyist--a person paid to act on behalf of a particular corporation, union, organization, etc. in aggressively promoting their agenda to elected representatives or those in positions of power in governments.  In some democracies, (like the United States), lobbyists help funnel campaign contributions to politicians--which often subvert the will of the people critics charge.  

kleptocracy--a government characterized by greed and corruption in which the ruler (or rulers) loot the national treasury and use his (their) position(s) to extend his (their) personal wealth to the detriment of the people he (they) are supposed to be serving. In a 2004 study, the German group Transparency International identified five national leaders of recent decades who directed at least $1 billion of their nation's wealth into their own private bank accounts. Former Indonesian and Philippine presidents Suharto and Marcos topped the list--ripping off an estimated $25 billion and $7.5 billion respectively. 

master -- a derogatory term that refers to an individual or group -- historically often associated with a man or men -- who dominates and controls another person or group of people, and to some extent exercises authority that keeps those subject to it in a submissive state of servitude.

merit system / meritocracy -- a system in which people are promoted based on their merit, which generally refers to their education, expertise, qualifications, demonstrated ability to do the job, experience, etc -- rather than who they know, their membership in some favored group, etc. The term meritocracy can refer to either a society, government, or both. For some a meritocracy is a society in which each person’s status (in occupational, civic influence, social terms) is based on individual merit rather than political, economic, family or other factors. Others would carry the merit system way of doing things to logical extreme and put a meritorious elite in charge of running a government or managing a society.

monarchy --government based on the absolute authority of a sovereign royal family ruler, i.e. king or queen

oligarchy--a from of government in which a small privileged group rules. Often those in this select group are there because they possess great wealth, military power, or family connections. Typically the rule is minority rule--meaning that if a true democracy was in place such rule would not be tolerated.  To some the term oligarchy connotes corrupt and selfish rule. 

plutocracy--government by or conducted in the interest of the rich.  Generally in societies governed like this, the level of economic inequality--measured by the gap between rich and poor--is high, and social mobility--measured by the % of once poor who escape their poverty and become rich--is low. "By 2000 the United States could be said to have a plutocracy" argues Kevin Phillips in his book Wealth and Democracy.  

political campaign contributions--the money and favors that individuals and groups give to candidates running for political office. Supporters view this as people extending their free speech rights; critics charge that the contributions are an attempt to buy influence and that such money from a relatively few wealthy people can subvert the will of the majority of the people.

power elite, the -- refers to the class of people in positions of power in the corporate state. The term was first used in the 1950s as the title of a leftist assessment of who runs America (a book by C. Wright Mills).

social class-- divisions amongst members of a society typically based on wealth, heredity, land owned, occupation, education, etc. that order a society in ladder fashion ( lower, middle, and upper classes are common divisions).  Extremes here have ranged from extraordinarily class conscious feudal society (remnants of which today still remain in the United Kingdom) to ideally classless communistic societies.  In the United States talk of social class and class struggle is "politically intolerable" according to historian Howard Zinn.

specialist -- one who narrowly focuses on a particular topic, area of study, or practice. Specialists pursue something with lots of depth, but don’t seek breadth. To be contrasted with generalist.

technocracy -- refers to a society managed by technical experts, or a government with technocrats or the technically elite in control.

top down vs. bottom up–contrasting approaches to bringing change, solving problems, structuring interaction (compare centrally planned economies, market based ones).

Winner Take All Society--a phrase used to characterize what many see as a disturbing societal trend toward greater inequality.  The phrase is from the title of a 1995 book by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook about income inequality in America and why, in the words of Molly Ivins,  "A few people get ungodly rich, and the rest of us fall behind!"  Simple-minded example of such a trend: Imagine a hypothetical state lottery switches from awarding $1 million prizes to twenty people and instead decides that one lucky person should take all $20 million! 


Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #21A --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #30 --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #31 --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #32 --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #48 --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #50A --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

Contrast Worldview Themes #20B and #50B --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

authoritarianism-- a form of social control that requires individuals relinquish certain rights and strictly obey the dictates of whomever is making these demands (and enforcing them): a national government, political party, dogmatic religious organization, etc.  The authoritarian regimes are typically undemocratic and often oppressive.

authoritarianism and collectivism--are alike in that in both the individual gives up certain rights and aspirations and conforms to the beliefs, goals, and expectations of the larger whole (nation, political party, religious group, working group. etc.) that he or she is part of.  They typically differ though in the manner in which members submit to such authority: authoritarian institutions are undemocratic and affected individuals have no real choice, whereas many collectives operate with voluntary participation and leadership seeks consensus agreement of members.  

authoritarian personality--describes one who rigidly conforms, is intolerant,  prefers living in an authoritarian system, and seeks servile acceptance of that authority and obedience.  Note that those actually in the positions of authority may not possess this type of personality.      

autocracy -- government in which absolute power is vested in a single person , also known as absolutism

brainwashing -- a forcible indoctrination to persuade someone to give up certain beliefs, attitudes and practices in favor of those espoused by whomever is behind the brainwashing.

fascism -- a centralized authoritarian system of government that exalts law and order, national pride, race, economic and social regimentation, and the survival of the fittest , while suppressing dissent, and trampling individual freedom. Playing on prejudice in using propaganda and scapegoating minorities are among tactics used by fascists.

fear--a strong, primary emotion associated with unpleasant anticipation of danger and pain.

Hobbesian view of human nature -- According to 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, human beings were selfish, aggressive, fiercely competitive, highly acquisitive creatures who were incapable of self restraint. With this dim view of human nature, he felt that the authoritarian state offered the only way to keep human beings from killing each other in constant warfare and destroying civilization.

paternalism -- a system in which adults are treated in a fatherly way like children, with their conduct regulated and their needs met. Typically in exchange for this care, the authority expects loyalty and that those receiving the care will accept their relinquishing of personal control.

political prisoner--a person who is detained or imprisoned by a national government because his or her political views are in opposition to the government's, and accordingly the person is viewed as a threat.  Sometimes there will be no legal basis for the imprisonment, others times the government will fabricate incriminating evidence and use it to justify its action. While many famous people have been political prisoners, countless others have died anonymously under such confinement.  Amnesty International maintains lists of political prisoners and for a small number, works for their release.  

ritualism vs. legalism--the contrast between these two orientations is highlighted by two societies: one in which  people are excessively devoted to ritual versus another in which people are excessively devoted to conforming strictly to the law.  The contrast was of interest to Confucius in ancient China. Of people in the former type of society, he wrote, "Lead [them] with excellence...put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously. In the latter type of society, he complained, "External authorities administer punishments after illegal actions--so people generally behave well without understanding why they should."

social contract--its most important meaning refers to an agreement between the people and their rulers in which the  duties and rights of each are defined and constrained.  While rulers would say it serves to maintain order, the people point to it as establishing the principle that rulers have legitimacy only if they have the consent of those they govern.   


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