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What word describes intentionally consolidating power/information and maintaining it at the top of a hierachy to keep newcomers out?

I think the word I'm looking for implies that there's some paranoia among the upper class about their position constantly being in flux, so they do everything in their power to maintain it?

Thanks!

5 Answers 5

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I cannot find a single word to describe this process but such people arrogate knowledge to themselves, forming a coterie in which they share esoteric information. Definitions of each are similar across a range of dictionaries:

Merriam Webster

Arrogate:

transitive verb 1a : to claim or seize without justification b : to make undue claims to having : Assume

Cambridge https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/esoteric Coterie:

a small group of people with shared interests, often one that does not want other people to join them

Collins

Esoteric:

If you describe something as esoteric, you mean it is known, understood, or appreciated by only a small number of people

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    Esoteric originally referred to religious or quasi-religious mysteries that allowed only select initiates to learn the truth (e.g. Kabalah, Golden Dawn, Freemasonry), but is now used more widely for obscure knowledge. There are a lot of similar jargon terms used in e.g. computing like black art and black magic, with various shades of meaning. Freemasonry is used in a somewhat similar way to mean shared knowledge. So lots of options.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 24, 2022 at 9:43
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That can be described as a monopoly of knowledge or information:

Monopolies of knowledge arise when the ruling class maintains political power through control of key communications technologies.

Marginal Man: The Dark Vision of Harold Innis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopolies_of_knowledge#cite_note-2

I don't think there's a singular term that refers specifically to the paranoia which leads to the elite using a monopoly of knowledge to secure their power. The closest you could do is describe it as an Orwellian or totalitarian paranoia.

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How about clique?

clique
A small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.
Source: Lexico — clique

If you need a verb: to form a clique.

Here are some usage examples from Corpus of Contemporary American English:

This was in part a response to the need to win elections and stay in power, often against popular forces. Enhanced corruption is both a way to find resources to stay in power and a reason to cling to power or to support a protective clique in power at all costs.

Recent interviews with more than a dozen classmates and friends from that time depict Judge Kavanaugh as a member of a small clique of football players who dominated Georgetown Prep’s work-hard, play-hard culture.

Every time I start to feel on the outside with the bros the smart part of me says, “Dude, who gives a shit? They don’t want you in their clique (for WHATEVER reason) then form your own damn clique or just get on with the business of living.”

He lived in one of those Art Deco palaces on Central Park West with gangsters and Jewish millionaires who had been shunned by all the palaces on Fifth Avenue and now formed their own incredible clique. They were the new lords of Manhattan.

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From Wikipedia:

The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory first developed by the German-born Italian sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. It asserts that rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable as an "iron law" within any 'democratic' organization as part of the "tactical and technical necessities" of organization....

They tend to promote those who share their opinions, which inevitably leads to self-perpetuating oligarchy.

[Bolding and single scare-quotes mine.]

Again from Wikipedia:

Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía); from ὀλίγος (olígos) 'few', and ἄρχω (arkho) 'to rule or to command') is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may or may not be distinguished by one or several characteristics, such as nobility, fame, wealth, education, or corporate, religious, political, or military control [power].

Wiktionary licenses the verb oligarchise: (transitive) to make oligarchic. I'd avoid this as rare.

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fiefdom

: an area over which someone exercises control as or in the manner of a feudal lord


The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies - And How to Overcome Them Paperback – October 18, 2005 by Robert Herbold, Amazon

“Turf wars and bureaucracy can undermine even the strongest corporate strategies. Drawing on lessons learned throughout his distinguished career, Bob describes innovative and practical ways to tackle this pervasive problem—and beat The Fiefdom Syndrome.”

—Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation

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  • There's an SNL skit from the 90s about Hacker Syndrome; can't find it. The IT community was rife with this when people didn't know nothin' bout no computers. Nobody's going to call you a wizard if everyone can do magic. Also, there's no incentive to lower your own job security. - Old guy at the shop doesn't want to teach the new kid how to program the CNC. I wonder why....
    – Mazura
    Jan 24, 2022 at 16:42

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