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Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank Paperback – April 1, 2004
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"I've been disturbed, especially during the past several years, by my restaurant encounters. The servers invariably wear an ID: Barbara or James. I, as patron, am always addressed with the prefix "Mr." I've always made a point to ask "What's your last name?" I'm not out to make trouble, just curious. The server often mumbles, as though embarrassed, his or her surname.
"Consider this a metaphor for the theme of Robert Fuller's wonderful and tremendously important book on the "ism" that is far more encompassing than racism, sexism or ageism. Rankism must be our prime target from now on in. Viva Fuller!"
-- Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Working.
"Somebodies & Nobodies is a shrewd and compelling look at the crucial but usually unperceived role of rank in all our lives. How easily we put down those we see as subordinate in title or wealth or origin; how silently we cringe at another's assumption of superiority. I saw myself in some of the examples, and I shuddered. But it is not just a personal analysis. The abuse of rank-the denial of equal dignity to others-corrupts relations between nations, and between the governors and the governed in a democracy. Robert Fuller is a realist, not an advocate of political correctness. He makes us understand that equal dignity, whatever one's place in society or the world, is a key to peace and social order."
- Anthony Lewis, former columnist for The New York Times.
"Somebodies & Nobodies will precipitate a national conversation about a pervasive but, until now, unnamed social dysfunction-rankism. Watch for a dignitarian movement against rankism that, like the civil rights and wo4men's movements, will transform American life-in the board room, the school room, the bedroom, and, a lot sooner than we might think, at the ballot box."
- Jerry Greenfield, Co-Founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.
"Bob Fuller's courageous study of rankism attacks the core 'ism' at the base of them all: how humans wield authority and status as weapons. It is impossible to read this book without a shock of recognition, a shriek of outrage-and a radical shift in worldview. I imagine (hope!) that many practicing rankists will receive it as an anonymous 'gift.' Then maybe they'll read it, and change."
- Denise Caruso, founder of the Hybrid Vigor Institute, former technology columnist for The New York Times.
"Somebody, nobody-in my time, I've been both. Most of us have. Robert Fuller breaks the taboo on speaking of rank as others have on race and gender. The message is simple; the message is vital: protect the dignity of others as you do your own."
- Tommie Smith, Gold Medallist in the 200 meters at the Mexico City Olympics who gave the Black Power salute, holder of eleven world records in track, currently track coach at Santa Monica Community College.
"Occasionally, an author comes along that makes us see the world around us in a totally new way. Robert W. Fuller takes us on a journey through the world of "Ranks." He explores how rank has been used throughout history to divide, separate and control people. Equally important, he tells us what we can do to overcome this outmoded and destructive social mechanism and establish social relationships based on the restoration and extension of the notion of dignity. This book is an eye opener that we can all learn and benefit from in our daily lives."
- Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C.; author of The Age of Access.
"A wonderful call to action against the spill-over of status. Wealth, job title and social positions are too often allowed to outweigh the respect to which each human being is entitled."
- Roger Fisher, Director, Harvard Negotiation Project, and author of Getting to Yes.
"Rankism has power over us primarily because it is invisible. This book makes it visible. And thus gives us the means to express our own innate legitimacy, instead of depending on the legitimacy granted to us from others."
- Art Kleiner, author of The Core Group and The Age of Heretics.
"Bullies and abusers seek power, control, domination and subjugation, and the pursuit of superior rank is their means to this end. When rankism is removed, deference no longer stifles dignity, fear gives way to mutual respect, and individuality and creativity flourish. Sombodies and Nobodies reveals the wisdom behind the saying that there's no such thing as an important person, only an important title."
- Tim Field, author of Bully in Sight and webmaster of Bully OnLine at www.bullyonline.org
"I recognize the origins of "Somebodies and Nobodies" in the experience Robert Fuller and I shared as students at Oberlin College during the conformist '50s. Inspired by Oberlin's historic role in multi-racial and co-education, our generation protested segregation and celebrated the translation of Simone de Beauvoir's pioneering work--"The Second Sex"--into English. Oberlin's faculty and trustees defied McCarthyite assaults on civil liberties. Robert Fuller extends Oberlin's dignitarian tradition by identifying the common cause of these and other abuses of power and giving it a name-rankism."
- Barbara Seaman, co-founder of National Women's Health Network, contributing editor at Ms., and author of Free and Female.
"Bob Fuller's ideas about rankism changed my personal behavior. I think they will change the world, in time. It is one of those 'click' realizations that you can't unclick-everything human looks different afterward, and you have to do something about it."
- Stewart Brand, Global Business Network; The Long Now Foundation; Founder of The Whole Earth Catalog.
"Somebodies and Nobodies deserves a place among American wisdom classics alongside Eric Hoffer's The True Believer. Robert Fuller approaches the fundamental problems of rank and human status-seeking from a new perspective, with new insights, and with wonderful originality. This book will promote liberating debate about social norms, organizational structures, and governance."
- Michael Murphy, Co-Founder of Esalen; author of Golf in the Kingdom.
- Michael Toms, Co-founder of New Dimensions World Broadcasting Network and author of A Time for Choices: Deep Dialogues for Deep Democracy and True Work.
"Robert Fuller's is a clear, reasonable, unorthodox voice advocating a more equitable world. In this analysis, he describes why that will be hard to achieve, and why achieving it starts nearer to home than we might think."
- Nelson W. Polsby, Heller Professor of Political Science, University of California at Berkeley; author of Presidential Elections.
In the on-going attempts to overcome racism and sexism in North America today, we are overlooking another kind of discrimination that is no less damaging and equally unjustifiable. It is a form of injustice that everyone knows, but no one sees: discrimination based on rank. Low rank-signifying weakness, vulnerability, and the absence of power-marks you for abuse in much the same way that race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation have long done.
When discrimination is race-based, we call it racism; when it's gender-based, we call it sexism. By analogy, rank-based discrimination might be called "rankism." Somebodies and Nobodies explains our reluctance to confront rankism, and argues that abuse based on power differences is no more justified than abuse based on color or gender differences. It shows where analyses based on identity fall short and, using dozens of examples to illustrate the argument, traces many forms of injustice and unfairness to rankism.
Somebodies and Nobodies unmasks rankism as The Feminine Mystique unmasked sexism. It demythologizes the prevailing social consensus-the "Somebody Mystique"-to demonstrate the pervasiveness and corrosiveness of rankism in our personal lives and social institutions. The book introduces new language and concepts that illuminate the subtle, often dysfunctional workings of power in our social interactions. It presents rankism as the last hurdle on the long road from aristocracy to a true meritocracy, brings into focus a dignitarian revolution that is already taking shape, and offers a preview of post-rankist society.
More About the Author
When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the USSR, Fuller reflected on his career and realized that he had been, at different times in his life, a somebody and a nobody. His periodic sojourns into "Nobodyland" led him to identify rankism--abuse of the power inherent in rank--and ultimately to write SOMEBODIES AND NOBODIES: OVERCOMING THE ABUSE OF RANK. Three years later, he published a sequel that focuses on building a "dignitarian society" titled ALL RISE: SOMEBODIES, NOBODIES, AND THE POLITICS OF DIGNITY. With co-author Pamela Gerloff, he has also published DIGNITY FOR ALL: HOW TO CREATE A WORLD WITHOUT RANKISM. His most recent books are RELIGION AND SCIENCE: A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP?; GENOMES, MENOMES, WENOMES: NEUROSCIENCE AND HUMAN DIGNITY; THE WISDOM OF SCIENCE; BELONGING: A MEMOIR; THE THEORY OF EVERYBODY; and THE ROWAN TREE: A NOVEL.
Top Customer Reviews
Even after all the work that we might have done in changing our attitudes about racism, sexism and any other ism we've known about, there's still been a lurking discomfort that we might not have been able to put our fingers on. This is what Robert Fuller calls "rankism."
Once you read this book, you'll see how rankism infects every aspect of our lives.
The signals can be very subtle, as in the old hooks that snare us when we turn into children in the presence of our parents. But now this author has articulated what we might not have been able to and given us ways to cope with things that we may have had only a felt sense about.
Until a few weeks ago, I enjoyed watching "The West Wing" on TV. The writing is so smart, so snappy, the actors were who I wish were running the country. Then last night C. J. Craig condescended to a new employee, telling him how little she thought of him as he was about 17 steps below her in rank. I felt a little stab of pain, as some of the pleasure was removed from the one show I looked forward to seeing.
Another interesting take on how rankism affects us all concerns the way certain U.S. Indian tribes are flipping the status they've had to endure for several centuries. With the advent of casinos and money, tribes are now standing up and saying, "We're still here. We count. We have clout. You can't ignore us or roll over us anymore.Read more ›
This book clearly and powerfully puts into words an underlying issue that takes great courage to expose--that discrimination based on rank is no more justified than descrimination based on race or gender.
Throughout this book Fuller shows that he aims to protect others' dignity as he would his own.
Many thanks to both these authors for their contributions to my personal and professional life!
However noble the author's intentions, this book is a bit of a chore to read. The arguments quickly become repetitive, and the text is quite dry. I wasn't full drawn into the book, and frequently found my attention wandering. The most interesting portions of the book are the anecdotes, which serve to illustrate the author's points quite clearly. Aside from these brief highlights, much of the rest of the book is heavy and cumbersome, required a great deal of focus to read.
The topic of rankism in education is touched upon in Awakening Brilliance, but though a great premise, it has a bit too much Pollyanna in it to be as effective as Fuller's book. This book should be on every coffee table, no matter how expensive or simple, around the world.
Fuller did a great job in bringing an awareness of rankism, though I felt he did not let himself go completely in his writing. Though he argues that rank itself is not the problem, and that the abuse of rank is the culprit; I believe rank itself causes people to automatically abuse it--rankism. Yes, I agree that rank is important in a society but most people in our society have an ingrained belief that to have high rank automatically equals to have authority over someone, in that authority means that whoever is under you is obligated to do whatever you want. Buy this book,read it, and have your whole family, friends, and rankists in your life read it too.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The other day I was at the library doing some research for one of my college classes when I happened to come across this book. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Joel Zavala
Every American needs to read this so they can see how badly they and their children have been treated by the "somebodies" who have no respect other than for their own kind. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Donald L. Delong
Gave me a lot to think about, and tools to change my attitude towards everybody, will read again for sure.Published 9 months ago by monique rouleau
Seriously this book says that racism and sexism were dead by the 70s, and that homophobia doesn't exist. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Adam
Really don't have any comments to give. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." It wasn't for me.Published on October 13, 2013 by Kay M. Dacy
This book was valuable in that it presented and put a name to a commonly experienced problem, rankism, and described how it manifests in a variety of arenas (e.g. Read morePublished on August 20, 2013 by Jennifer May, Ph.D.
The book was just different than I expected. I thought it would be more with examples maybe - less philosophical maybe?Published on July 10, 2013 by Carolyn Eagle
Robert W. Fuller has a point: All people should be treated with dignity. He names the failure to do so “rankism”, a neologism that he believes will, like the words “racism” and... Read morePublished on June 17, 2013 by R. Schwenk
This is just another all hype no substance self help book. Fuller wastes your time explaining a new overarching category for treating people like inferiors due to differences in... Read morePublished on March 11, 2013 by chuck