A loosely defined term which is often attached to social relationships within which the dominant partner adopts an attitude and set of practices that suggest provident fostering care for his or her subordinates. The concept carries implications of unwelcome meddling in the lives of the latter by the former. It also alludes to gross inequalities in access to, and exercise of, power .
A wide variety of social relationships have been described and analysed as characteristically paternalist, including those between husbands and wives, master and slave, employer and employee. The relationship between certain factory owners and their employees, for example during the early phase of industrialization in the West, has often been viewed in this way. The former group exerted almost unrestrained power over the latter. However, as a tactic for securing social control , the early mill-owners attempted to convert power relations into moral ones; or, in the terminology of Max Weber , to translate domination into traditional authority. This was to be achieved by the institutionalization of such practices as periodic gift-giving, charitable religious and educational activity, provision of company housing and insurance schemes, and support for company-affiliated voluntary associations and clubs. One of the most systematic studies of this form of paternalism, which examines employer domination and operative responses in the Northern textile mills of Victorian England, is Patrick Joyce's Work, Society and Politics (1980).
The suggestion is often put that paternalism, practised in this way, is a device for managing and legitimating overtly and potentially disruptive hierarchical and exploitative relationships: it serves the interests of men rather than those of women, the ruling class rather than the proletariat, or of White masters as opposed to Black slaves. However, it has proved difficult to demonstrate empirically that the ritualistic (usually deferential ) responses of subordinates to the paternalistic strategies of their superiors indicate identification with or approval of the status quo, rather than merely an external and calculated management of impressions (or what has been called ‘the necessary pose of the powerless’).

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Paternalism — refers usually to an attitude or a policy stemming from the hierarchic pattern of a family based on patriarchy, that is, there is a figurehead (the father, pater in Latin) that makes decisions on behalf of others (the children ) for their own… …   Wikipedia

  • paternalism — paternalísm s. n. Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic  PATERNALÍSM s.n. 1. Sistem social caracterizat prin predominanţa prestigiului celor mai vârstnici sau a unuia care deţine o influenţă personală asupra grupului. 2.… …   Dicționar Român

  • Paternalism — Pa*ter nal*ism, n. (Polit. Science) The theory or practice of paternal government. See {Paternal government}, under {Paternal}. London Times. [1913 Webster] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • paternalism — (n.) government as by a father over his children, 1881, from PATERNAL (Cf. paternal) + ISM (Cf. ism); paternalistic was in use by 1890 …   Etymology dictionary

  • paternalism — ► NOUN ▪ the policy of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of subordinates or dependents in their supposed best interest. DERIVATIVES paternalist noun & adjective paternalistic adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • paternalism — [pə tʉr′n liz΄əm] n. [ PATERNAL + ISM] the principle or system of governing or controlling a country, group of employees, etc. in a manner suggesting a father s relationship with his children paternalist n., adj. paternalistic adj.… …   English World dictionary

  • paternalism — [[t]pətɜ͟ː(r)nəlɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT Paternalism means taking all the decisions for the people you govern, employ, or are responsible for, so that they cannot or do not have to make their own decisions. The government should be guided by the… …   English dictionary

  • paternalism — n. an attitude or policy that overrides a person s own wishes in pursuit of their best interests. The question of when, if ever, a measure of paternalism may be justified remains one of the most difficult in ethics. The philosopher John Stuart… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • paternalism — noun Date: 1881 1. a system under which an authority undertakes to supply needs or regulate conduct of those under its control in matters affecting them as individuals as well as in their relations to authority and to each other 2. a policy or… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • paternalism — paternalist, n., adj. paternalistic, adj. paternalistically, adv. /peuh terr nl iz euhm/, n. the system, principle, or practice of managing or governing individuals, businesses, nations, etc., in the manner of a father dealing benevolently and… …   Universalium

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