Beyond Rankism: Democracy For All with Robert Fuller, Ph.D.

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Rank has legitimate rights. When rank has been earned and signifies excellence, then it's generally accepted, and rightfully so. But the power of rank is often abused. The abuse of rank, or of power, is rankism. Treating others as invisible, as "nobodies," - insulting someone's dignity - that's rankism. Most of us have felt its sting; most have dished it out in some form. Overcoming rankism - in the family, the schools, and the workplace - is democracy's next step and the focus of this insightful dialogue between Robert Fuller and Michael Toms. "Not listening is probably the most fundamental basic and pervasive form of rankism, just tuning people out on the basis of some quick assumption about their worth, their social rank and doing the opposite, listening far too much to people who have a supposedly superior rank are celebrities, our personalities, our millionaires," says Fuller. (hosted by Michael Toms)


Robert Fuller, Ph.D. is a physicist and former president of Oberlin College. He has consulted with Indira Gandhi, met with Jimmy Carter regarding the President's Commission on World Hunger, and worked to defuse the Cold War in Russia when it was known as the USSR. As Fuller reflected on his career he 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 - the abuse of the power inherent in rank - and ultimately to write the book Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank. He has become a recognized leader of the dignity movement to overcome rankism and keynoted a Dignity for All conference hosted by the President of Bangladesh. His many other accomplishments include co-authoring the text book Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics.

Robert Fuller’s books include:

To view a video about the work of Robert W. Fuller click here, or go to his website:

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Have you been a recipient of rankism or have you dished it out
  • When rank is valid and when it turns sour
  • Why do schools basically fail to win the hearts and minds of most students
  • Why our schools have to go to the deeper source of violence and understand the human need for recognition
  • How to go to your doctor full of information - the transformation of the medical field
  • How to create a space to listen to ourselves
Host: Michael Toms       Interview Date: 4/25/2001       Program Number: 2869