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the attitude or policy of a government or other authority that manages the affairs of a country, company, community, etc., in the manner of a father, esp in usurping individual responsibility and the liberty of choice


a system by which a government or organization deals with its subjects or employees by deploying an authoritarian family model of relationships, i.e. the directive but benevolent father dealing with a child. In such a relationship, the more powerful seeks to legitimate social, economic and political inequality by claiming that domination is in the best interests of the oppressed. The dominated are said to be child-like, i.e. immature and unable to look after their own affairs, therefore the government or organization must act in loco parentis (in the place of parents).

Paternalism is used widely as a legitimating ideology in pre-industrial societies, in colonial regimes and in personal relationships. Examples would include PATRON-CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS, the ‘civilizing’ mission of European powers in Africa, master-slave relationships in chattel slavery and some teacher-student relationships.



in labor relations in the bourgeois states, a form of ostentatious benevolence by entrepreneurs, a form of illusory concern for the needs of the working people, and a special means by which the capitalist exercises power over hired laborers. Bourgeois propaganda compares the power of the employer with the power of a father over the children in his care. The capitalist is depicted as a person concerned not only for his business but also for the needs of the workers employed at his enterprise. In return for this show of concern, the workers are expected to give unconditional “loyalty, devotion, and obedience” to their “benefactor.” Any act of protest against the entrepreneur’s arbitrary actions is considered a violation of the “obligation of loyalty” and brings the threat of discharge.

The concept of paternalism, one of the oldest capitalist doctrines, reflects elements of semifeudal relations. Conscious propaganda of the ideas of paternalism by the ideologists of the bourgeoisie dates from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is associated with growing resistance by the working people to capitalist exploitation. “Benevolent activity” developed among entrepreneurs in Germany, the USA, Russia, and other countries. The system of paternalism became particularly widespread and assumed special forms in Japan, a society which, in the early 20th century, was characterized by a high percentage of women in the labor force and by very strong feudal traditions.

V. I. Lenin exposed illusory entrepreneurial benevolence and criticized the “philanthropists” (Menschenfreunde) in the West, who, he wrote, “go into ecstasies over the kindness of a capitalist to a worker, rapturously relate cases where a factory owner shows concern for his workers, provides them with general stores, dwellings, etc.” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1, pp. 249–50).

During the general crisis of capitalism the bourgeoisie makes use of paternalism to weaken working-class organizations and mitigate the class struggle. The capitalists use paternalism to try to convince the working people that a real improvement in working conditions can only be achieved by “cooperation” with the owners. But improved conditions—higher pay, certain privileges, payment of grants to those who retire, and construction of nursery schools—can only be achieved by the workers through persistent class struggle. “Voluntary” measures taken and later cancelled by the capitalist at his discretion strengthen the working people’s dependence on the capitalist.

In the present period, paternalism (in its pure form) survives only in Spain, Italy, and Japan. In many capitalist countries paternalism used to be typical only of small enterprises, but it is now actively used by large companies and is definitely oriented against trade unions. At enterprises owned by these large companies, trade unions are flatly prohibited, or “yellow” company unions, which put the owner’s policies into effect, are organized. According to experts at the International Institute for Labor Studies, this system of “plant corporativism” affected about 78 million factory and clerical workers in the capitalist world in 1972, including more than 30 million in Japan (about 60 percent of all hired workers in that country), about 18 million in North America (20 percent), and about 13 million in Western Europe (9 percent). In a unique form of paternalism known as Boulwarism, the capitalist bypasses the trade union and makes direct contact with the workers. The policy was first put into practice in the 1950’s at General Electric, an American company, by L. Boulwar, a company vice-president after whom the policy was named.

The working people of the capitalist countries oppose the policy of paternalism. Communist parties and progressive trade unions demand that all manifestations of paternalism be eliminated, that rights won by the workers be established by law, and that effective control be instituted over the “social” activity of entrepreneurs.


Usenin, V. I. Sotsial’noe partnerstvo ili klassovaia bor’ba? Moscow, 1968. Pages 27–35.


References in periodicals archive ?
For example, because many citizens cannot be relied upon to always exercise their liberty responsibly, states behave paternalistically by imposing traffic laws, subjecting restaurants to periodic health inspections, forbidding the possession of certain weapons, and imposing building safety codes and environmental restrictions.
That is, the state does not treat Rocky paternalistically when he is punished to deter others.
The first duty of government is to protect the public,' he said, a little too paternalistically for my taste.
A phrase from grade-school report cards, the title also speaks, perhaps paternalistically, to Owens's youth; she is, at thirty-two, by a number of years the youngest painter MOCA has surveyed in such depth.
Both initiatives failed miserably, however, because they were fixated on the numbers, not the people, and because they were directed, paternalistically, at "them" rather than being made part of "our" lives as well.
In my view this is a flawed project because the type of person Stretton has in mind is no longer appropriate or `practical' in a world composed of individuals who do not want to be guided paternalistically by a `wise' administrator.
We can certainly find reasons for the breakdown of old values based on white influence, but to blame the white man entirely is to regard the Indians, paternalistically, as children incapable of reason, which is how the early white settlers regarded them.
The lawyer, however, cannot paternalistically substitute her or his own value system which results in a judgment preventing the client from the right of autonomy, because intervention as a de facto fiduciary or in any other manner which restricts client freedom is inconsistent with the principles of a "normal" relationship which the formal opinion requires.
On the other hand, we are justified in treating children paternalistically only to the extent to which doing so is necessary to develop the child's higher order capacities.
More often than not, the term indios was pejoratively used or indigenas was paternalistically applied.
While Charles Smith is the messenger of a misguided denigration of Garvey, the Goodman Theater, as producer, has paternalistically nurtured, endorsed, and delivered the message to its "new" audience.
We act paternalistically with children because they don't know what's good for them.