The Anthropology of Nepotism: Social Distance and Reciprocity in Organizations in Developing Countries

Simon Ulrik Kragh

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Nepotism is widespread in organizations in developing countries but has so far received scant attention in cross-cultural management research. The paper seeks to contribute to the underdeveloped research topic suggesting an anthropological explanation of nepotism. It is argued that nepotism reflects the presence of tribal and peasant social morals in organizations where they replace norms and principles typical of industrial society. Examples from African and Latin American organizations show how nepotism works, and drawing on quantitative data it is suggested that nepotism is relatively common in countries at the earlier stages of industrial development. Four managerial approaches to nepotism are outlined: managers can accept nepotistic ambiguity; they can attempt to strengthen the modern organization; they can use the tribal and peasant norms underlying nepotism as the basic principle of the organization; or they can codify the pre-industrial norms and make them part of the formal organization.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Cross Cultural Management
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)247-265
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • Anthropology
    • Industrial Society
    • Management
    • Nepotism
    • Organization Research
    • Peasant

    Cite this