The development of system justification in the developing world

P. J. Henry, Andrea Saul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


System justification theorists have proposed that under some circumstances "people who suffer the most from a given state of affairs are paradoxically the least likely to question, challenge, reject, or change it" Jost et al. (2003). These claims are contrary to theories that suggest that group members seek to enhance their self-interest or group-interest (e.g., realistic group conflict theory, rational choice models). The present study, conducted in one of the poorest countries in the world, Bolivia, tested if even the most impoverished people of the world will endorse beliefs justifying the status quo. A survey of 356 Bolivian school children found that low-status children endorse beliefs in the effectiveness of government in meeting the people's needs more than their high-status counterparts. The results suggest that system-justifying beliefs are endorsed by low-status group members in even the most extreme cases of poverty, and even among the youngest politically aware members of society, and they raise questions about the capacity for true social change in those parts of the world that may need it the most.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-378
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Justice Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Intergroup relations
  • Legitimizing ideologies
  • Power
  • Social dominance
  • Status
  • System justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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