AskDefine | Define bossism

Dictionary Definition

bossism n : domination of a political organization by a party boss

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The domination of a political party by a single, powerful person (the boss)

Extensive Definition

Bossism, in the history of the United States (particularly in the Gilded Age), is a system of political control centering about a single powerful figure (the boss) and a complex organization of lesser figures (the machine) bound together by reciprocity in promoting financial and social self-interest. Bossism was a very large issue in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Bossism reached its pinnacle under James A. Farley when he combined Unions, Big City Machines, and Catholics to form the New Deal Coalition which installed Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency in 1932. All of President Roosevelt's non-cabinet level appointments were screened by Farley before they were allowed to be confirmed on the basis of party loyalty due to patronage. Farley's ability to build up the Democratic Parties National political machine made it the most organized and most powerful in United States American History. Farley had such control and intimate knowledge of the workings of his machine that he was seen as a prophet by many (including Roosevelt) for correctly predicting the States he would carry in two consecutive national elections and came close to predicting the margin of votes Roosevelt would carry these states by.


  • H. F. Gosnell, Machine Politics (1937, repr. 1968);
  • S. Lubell, The Future of American Politics (3d ed. 1965);
  • E. C. Banfield and J. Q. Wilson, City Politics (1963, repr. 1966)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Machtpolitik, Realpolitik, Tammany Hall, arbitrariness, authoritarianism, authoritativeness, autocraticalness, career politics, confrontation politics, consensus politics, domineering, domineeringness, economics in action, empirical politics, imperativeness, imperiousness, kid-glove politics, lordliness, machine politics, magisterialness, magistrality, masterfulness, overbearance, overbearing, overbearingness, partisan politics, partisanism, peanut politics, peremptoriness, petty politics, politics, polity, pork-barrel politics, power politics, practical politics, pressure-group politics, reform politics, silk-stocking politics, tyrannicalness, ward politics
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