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Robert W. Fuller

Robert W. Fuller named the problem of rankism in Somebodies and Nobodies and described how societies can promote universal dignity in All Rise. With Pamela A. Gerloff he co-wrote Dignity for All - a handbook for the Dignity Movement. His most recent books are Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship?, Genomes, Menomes, Wenomes: Neuroscience and Human Dignity, and The Rowan Tree: A Novel.

Dignity Works

school bullying * corporate corruption * sexual harassment * domestic violence * elder abuse * the invisible poor * racism * sexism * homophobia * ageism * classism * ableism

What do these problems have in common? Dr. Robert Fuller argues they are all examples of a more fundamental problem, one that we, as a society, have yet to address. He sees them all as examples of rankism.

RANKISM: The Common Thread
Rankism is the exploitation or humiliation of those with less power or lower status. Simply put, rankism occurs when the somebodies of the world use the power of their rank to take advantage over those they see as nobodies. Rankism is the root cause of a wide variety of dominating behaviors. As the general cause of indignity, rankism is no more defensible than the now familiar indignities of racism, sexism, etc. Dr. Fuller is quick to add, though, that eliminating rankism doesn’t mean eliminating rank any more than getting rid of racism means getting rid of race. Rank can be a useful organizational tool that, used properly, helps us achieve group goals. It is the abuse of rank that cries out for our attention.

DIGNITY: The Cure For Rankism
How do you change something that’s so pervasive and that has for so long gone unnamed? With dignity, Fuller says. Treating people with dignity, no matter where they fall on the corporate, social, familial, or political ladder is the key to overcoming rankism in all its manifestations. In rankist environments, creativity is stifled, students can’t learn, workers are disloyal, health is compromised, families suffer dysfunction, and victims want revenge. Dignity is the antidote.

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“Robert Fuller’s Somebodies and Nobodies is a 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

“If only all the problems in the world were just about money, or land, or religion, or racism. But in fact, they’re about power. All of these things are just excuses for the ugly tendency of those in power to abuse those without it. Worse, power often seduces the powerless as much as it corrupts the powerful. Robert Fuller exposes these ugly dynamics – and in exposing them, helps to make them easier to overturn.”
Esther Dyson, Internet guru, Editor Release 1.0

“Watch for a dignitarian movement against rankism that, like the civil rights and women’s movements, will transform American life – in the boardroom, the schoolroom, 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.

“The quest for recognition, especially by those who lack status, has long been seen as one of the driving forces of human history. Somebodies and Nobodies explains how recognition, or its absence, affects your life, and what we can all do to make sure that we treat each other with the dignity we each deserve.”
Francis Fukuyama, Professor of International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University, and author of The End of History

“Fuller gives us the essential tools to fight abuses of rank and to build high-performing institutions and organizations based on respect.”
Wes Boyd, Co-founder of

All Rise give us a clear mandate for transforming our society into a true democracy.”
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes

“This handbook [Dignity for All] brings an exciting new voice to social science and to the public as well. I believe that these ideas are destined to play an important role in our century.”
Thomas J. Scheff, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, UC-Santa Barbara