bootstrap empowerment

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changeling

Senior Member
Russia, russian
Hi group!

I have a question here about “bootstrap empowerment”. It`s pretty simple to get the meaning of these words separately but I seem failing to comprehend their combination :)
The phrase, marked red, used in the following context:

It seems that everyone these days is talking about a leadership crisis whose tentacles extend to business, politics, criminal justice, education, and social services. Some say it is due to the human iso¬lationism or narcissism of the technology age; others say apathy, corruption, unresponsive government, or increasing centralization of wealth and power in the hands of a small elite (Tolchin, 1996, chapter 1). Adherents to bootstrap empowerment claim that today's young people have it too easy.
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    As you've probably seen, the figurative definition of bootstrap is:
    help oneself, often through improvised means
    http://www.wordreference.com/definition/bootstrap

    In other words, you could understand "bootstrap empowerment" to mean "self-empowerment," with added stress on becoming empowered without the help of others and possibly with a connotation that suggests that it is a difficult or strenuous process.
     

    sorry66

    Senior Member
    English, England
    When someone has been in difficulty (often financial) and then with his own effort and initiative gets out of it we say that 'he pulled himself up by his bootstraps'.
    The phrase suggests that people who are ''self-made'' in a sense ( who believe in hard work and paving your own way in life) think that young people don't face enough diffculties and, therefore, don't know how to empower themselves with their own effort.
     

    changeling

    Senior Member
    Russia, russian
    Is it like a Richard Branson saying - the problem of youth is that they don`t want to (or don`t have to) face challenges, to be determined and tough...
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I have never come across sorry66's version of the original saying: 'he picked (??)himself up by his bootstraps'. The only form I know is: they must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, which means to progress entirely through one's own efforts. This was the social philosophy of people like Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Like Arrius, I have only heard this expression as "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps".

    This is the only verb that makes sense, as the image is that as one pulls on one's boots with the bootstraps, the action of pulling upward will figuratively raise the whole body.
     

    sorry66

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Sorry Arrius. I did type that quite quickly. The original saying does use 'pulled' although I don't think you need the stress of 'own'. I probably conflated the idea of people picking themselves up after something devastating with the expression.
    No need to pick me to peices.!
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I did not pick you to pieces. I left open the possibility that yours was a valid alternative I had not yet heard, possibly coming from a different part of Britain or something that had emerged during the several decades in which I have been abroad -a frequent occurrence in our rapidly changing mother tongue. There is no need to be so sensitive. Nor is there any need to apologise.
     

    sorry66

    Senior Member
    English, England
    I was joking about the 'you picking me to pieces', I was just wanting to throw in another expression.

    As I said it is easy to conflate expressions and people often do. After a series of disasters people 'pick themselves up' and carry on. I think the idea is very close to 'pulling yourself up by your bootstraps'.

    Figuratively, it has never really worked for me re: GWBlue above, when you pull at your bootstraps, your feet get lifted up not your body, which is helpful ,albeit dubiously, when you're out on a long walk and feel tired. I think I even remember trying to visualise this expression as a child and not being convinced.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    It may be physically impossible--I'm sure Newton is perpetually spinning in his grave over this phrase--and sound illogical, but it is such a common phrase that even the word bootstrap, without "picking" or "pulling," immediately brings to my AE mind the meaning of the entire phrase.

    GWB is correct in his presentation of the image conjured up by the phrase "picked himself up by his bootstraps." In that sense, his was the last post that actually sought to answer the original poster's question rather than arguing about the validity, logic, or legitimacy of the phrase.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    In Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac", the poet-warrior explains one of his methods of reaching the moon, long before Cape Canaveral, as follows: you put on a steel breastplate and then toss a powerful magnet into the air. The magnet then attracts you upwards and you subsequently throw it a stage higher, repeating the process until you land on the lunar surface. This is the same as the bootstrap principle.
     

    sorry66

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Well your post (no. 2) biliolept and my post (no.3) sufficiently answered the question. The discussion that followed was about the expression used (...bootstraps) which seems legitimate to me.:)
     

    sorry66

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Except with the 'bootstrap' principle you don't know where you are going necessarily. Just moving away from the bottom and up!
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    As you've probably seen, the figurative definition of bootstrap is:
    http://www.wordreference.com/definition/bootstrap

    In other words, you could understand "bootstrap empowerment" to mean "self-empowerment," with added stress on becoming empowered without the help of others and possibly with a connotation that suggests that it is a difficult or strenuous process.
    The fact that we have to haggle over the exact meaning of this phrase indicates to me that it is overblown 'management-speak'. Do you think maybe the simpler phrase "willpower and individual effort" conveys the same idea?
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    The expression with bootstraps is both very graphic and colourful, and has been in the vocabulary of English-speaking politicians particularly for as long as I can remember. It is exactly the phrase most suited to this idea, and every British, and probably American adult readily understands what it means, but it may seem rather obscure to a non-native speaker. What has been in dispute here is the exact wording of the saying, not its meaning, which is quite straightforward.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    The expression with bootstraps is both very graphic and colourful, and has been in the vocabulary of English-speaking politicians particularly for as long as I can remember. It is exactly the phrase most suited to this idea, and every British, and probably American adult readily understands what it means, but it may seem rather obscure to a non-native speaker. What has been in dispute here is the exact wording of the saying, not its meaning, which is quite straightforward.
    Going back to Changeling's original post:
    It`s pretty simple to get the meaning of these words separately but I seem failing to comprehend their combination
    this is the point I was commenting on when I suggested a simpler alternative.
     
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