Oppression, Dehumanization and Exploitation: Connecting Theory to Experience



Download 32,07 Kb.
Date conversion08.12.2018
Size32,07 Kb.
  • This presentation is in two parts:
  • A lecture about recent theories which distinguish between oppression, dehumanization and exploitation.
  • This presentation is in two parts:
  • 2. An exercise in which we identify words and affective phrases associated with our own experiencs of oppression, dehumanization and exploitation.

In the exercise….(later)

  • Participants identify the words and affective phrases describing the feelings we have experienced due to acts of oppression, dehumanization and exploitation. These are shared on 3x5 cards that are shuffled, redistributed, and discussed.

For Example

  • beaten down
  • being left behind
  • being used
  • beleaguered
  • belittled
  • blamed
  • boot in the face

A similar list of words….

  • In the textbook written here in Minnesota, Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skills, a similar list was developed. But in my teaching of a course on oppression at Fordham University in 1989, I found that these lists didn’t seem to match the words and affective phrases my students were coming up with to describe their experience of oppression.

A similar list of words….

  • In addition to the lists in the text, why not create a list about words and phrases describing the experience of oppression, my students and I decided? Over the years, we concluded that it was not just feelings of oppression we were identifying, it was also feelings of dehumanization and exploitation.

A similar list of words….

  • The final list of words is available on course reserves or the course website, with the latest entries bold-faced from the exercise I did last Summer. I’m hoping that new words can also be added from this presentatation!

Speaking of words…..

  • In this presentation, some of the words and names mentioned will be bold-faced. Those are the words that are in the glossary of key terms and concepts on course reserves and the course website. I’ll be going through them pretty quickly because as you know we have a busy schedule today.

Speaking of words…..

  • But since they are in the glossary, you don’t need to take notes other than to perhaps jot down any words which interest you. Later, when I double check which concepts from the glossary I’ve covered in class, I’ll give you the glossary terms you need to try to understand in this course.

Speaking of words…..

  • Then, you can study these concepts for the midterm questions that match words with definitions. And you can use them in the short essay questions. You will be able to choose two short essay questions from among six, each of which has bold-faced within it one of these concepts. You answer will need to show you understand this concept well enough to answer the question effectively.

A similar list of words….

  • Some of the words in the compendium are words we felt at the time, at very present moment of the experience of an act or situation of oppression. If you are interested in this concept of the present moment, I highly recommend The Present Momen in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life by the child psychiatrist David Stern.

A similar list of words….

  • Other words are referred to as reactive emotions, which we defined and coded as emotions we experienced seconds or minutes later.
  • Finally, some were feelings that evolved over time from our experiences of oppression, dehumanization or exploitation, including both adaptive emotions like solidarity and maladaptive emotions like sense of defeat.

A similar list of words….

  • So, while I’m talking about theories of oppression, dehumanization and exploitation, feel free to start thinking back to experiences you have had. You won’t be asked to describe them or discuss them. But try to remember how you felt at that very moment, and begin to jot down the words and phrases which describe how you felt.

Introduction

  • Bertha Capen Reynolds said in Uncharted Journey, "Oppression produces the resistance which will in the end overthrow it ... We shall learn how to struggle when we care most what happens to all of us, and we know that all of us can never be defeated.” For more information, see the Social Welfare Action Alliance website or the NASW website.

First…..

  • So today, what we’ll be covering is that we will by defining and discussing theories of oppression, dehumanization and exploitation. Then we move beyond theory, beyond the “isms”, and share and discuss the feelings produced by these experiences.

Definitions

  • Would anyone like to take a shot at explaining what the difference is between oppression, exploitation and dehumanization? (Students first!).

Definitions

  • How about dehumanization? Who would like to try to define or describe dehumanization? After all, anyone who has worked a minimum wage, non-living wage job knows what exploitation is like. And oppression is a concept that is fairly well covered in social work and social sciences courses, and you have likely studied it before.

Oppression

  • First, however, I want to discussion oppression.
  • In their article in the Encyclopedia of Social Work, Wambach and Van Soest cite an excellent metaphor for oppression, one which explains why it is so hard to theorize and to observe a structure of oppression. That metaphor is the cage.

Oppression

  • They point out how hard it is "to understand that one is looking at a cage and there are people there who are caged, whose motion and mobility are restricted, whose lives are shaped and reduced." A well designed cage has a strong structure, but the actual wires that keep the birds in are as thin as possible to enable people to see in.

Mechanisms of Oppression

  • The authors argue there six mechanisms of oppression. I’m going to go through them pretty quickly, as you aren’t responsible for understanding them; I just want to make a point about them:
  • (1) violence and the threat of violence,
  • (2) rendering the oppressed group or their existence as an oppressed group as invisible, so that their status is taken for granted and not questioned,
  • (3) ensuring that the group is ghettoized so as to be out of sight, out of mind,

Mechanisms of Oppression

  • (4) Engaging in cultural oppression by treating the group as inferior,
  • (5) When oppressed groups are easily visible, they argue that the oppression can be rationalized or excused or
  • (6) keeping oppressed groups divided within themselves or from other oppressed groups.

On second thought….

  • Just because this is in the Encyclopedia of Social Work doesn’t mean we should agree with this, however. We should always engage in critical thinking about social theories, by which I mean think analytically. We might end up agreeing or not agreeing, being critical or not critical. Thinking critically means thinking analytically and systematically about the concept, not being critical of it or not.

Thinking Critically (Analytically)

  • Van Soest and Garcia (2003) themselves, in the first edition of their CSWE book Diversity Education for Social Justice: Mastering Teaching Skills point out that it is important to critically challenge the assumptions of the prevailing academic approaches to diversity education.

On second thought….

  • And of course I would encourage you to think critically about the things I say as well. In fact, if you don’t like the definitions (mine or those of others) of the concepts in the glossary, find another one that makes more sense to you and send it to me. If I feel it would be helpful to other students, I’ll put it up on the glossary as an alterative definition! Questions so far?

Thinking Critically (Analytically)

  • Thinking critically, Van Soest and her colleague refer to these six processes as the social mechanisms of oppression. But don’t they seem to have been things which are done to maintain oppression after it has already be put in place. The oppressed group is made invisible, ghettoized, treated as inferior, and kept divided only after it has already become an oppressed group, isn’t it? Let’s see as we go along.

Thinking Critically (Analytically)

  • One thing that is clear from history and social science is that racist beliefs and other ideologies of oppression serve to justify oppression after it has been established. For instance, I’ve just finished a great new book, Darwin’s Sacred Cause.

Thinking Critically (Analytically)

  • Charles Darwin was motivated all his life by the abolitionist views of his family of origin. His family believed that all people were creatures of God. Even though Darwin himself no longer believed in the Biblical account of the origins of life, he firmly believed that all human beings share a common origin.

Thinking Critically (Analytically)

  • Darwin used objective scientific methods, but in service of his deeper beliefs. He would have been heartbroken if he had found that people were not descended from a common origin. He was able to establish theories of natural and sexual selection that argued that human beings were indeed descended from a common origin.

Thinking Critically (Analytically)

  • Darwin’s sacred cause was to refute the growing scientific racism which claimed that people of African origin were a different and inferior species and that this justified slavery. But that scientific racism came after slavery, to justify slavery. Theodore Allen in his acclaimed book The Invention of the White Race has also shown that racism as an ideology came after slavery to justify it, not before.

Mechanisms of Oppression

  • So what are the originating mechanisms of oppression? A mechanism in social science is the identified set of specific institutionalized individual and collective behaviors which help explain how durable social structures like patriarchy and racism in the social environment impact our daily lives.

Mechanisms of Oppression

  • How Wambach and Van Soest’s life possibly differ from more fundamental mechanisms of oppression? Or do they? As I said, we’ll see. First, I would like to discuss one important mechanism, called closure.

Parkin’s Concept of Closure

  • Closure is a mechanism through which one social group dominates another social group. By social group I mean a socially constructed and identifiable group that holds one or more social positions, either one of dominance and privilege or or subordination and oppression. Can we think of examples of such social groups?

Parkin’s Concept of Closure

  • Frank Parkin theorized that a mechanism called social closure is a "process by which social collectivities seek to maximize rewards by restricting access to resources and opportunities to a limited circle of eligible." (p. 44)

3 Kinds of Closure

  • He defines THREE kinds of closure: One is what he calls exclusionary closure, which is the process by which one group excludes another group. Different kinds of exclusionary closure are in place in different kinds of societies. This is the most important kind of closure to understand for our purposes. I won’t cover the other two.

Parkin (Weberian Perspective)

  • The concept of closure was first introduced in Parkin’s 1979 book, Marxism and Class theory. This is perhaps the most salient Weberian critique of neo-Marxism. Marxist class analysis, he argues, tends to deny the importance of "racial ideology", of "ethnic cleavages" or "communal divisions.”

Weberian Theory

  • Parkin argued that it is important to understand the oppression of social groups by social groups. Many of the current theories of oppression we are using today are derived from Weberian group theory. Weberian group theory provides a powerful ability to sustain social critiques.

Classical Origins of Theories of Oppression, Dehumanization and Exploitation

  • Oppression – Weberian group theory
  • Dehumanization - Durkheimian institutional theory
  • Exploitation - Marxist class theory

Theories of Oppression, Dehumanization and Exploitation

  • Last Fall, I published a chapter, “Oppression, Dehumanization and Exploitation: Connecting Theory to Experience,” as Chapter 16 in the Second Edition of Van Soest and Betty Garcia’s book, Diversity Education for Social Justice (Second Edition). Alexandria VA: Council on Social Work Education. In that chapter I introduced a typology of theories of oppression, dehumanization and exploitation.

Basis of Typology of ODE Content For Social Work Education

  • Oppression: Ann Cudd’s Analyzing Oppression (2006). First unified and philosophically constructed theory of oppression.
  • Dehumanization: Nick Haslam’s social psychological theories of animalistic and mechanistic dehumanization.
  • Exploitation: Robin Hahnel and Chuck Tilly’s post-Marxist theories of exploitation.

Exploitation

  • First, let’s discussion exploitation, then oppression, and then dehumanization. On exploitation, let’s skip any real discussion of classical Marxist class theory of exploitation, but there is one great article which explains it well: Longres, John. Marxian theory and social work practice. Catalyst. 1986; (20)13-34.

Exploitation

  • But in order to establish a typology of ODE content, it is necessary to show the manner in which oppression, dehumanization and exploitation can be distinguished from each other. That’s easier said than done, because theories of oppression have become broader and broader in their conceptualization in recent years, so that O, D, and E become indistinguishable.

Exploitation

  • For instance, Tilly (1998) has developed a theory of inequality that posited mechanisms of group domination as well as economic extraction. David Gil (1994) has sought to incorporate exploitation and dehumanization into a theory of oppression.

Exploitation

  • But efforts to theorize oppression, dehumanization and exploitation in ways which incorporate each other risk overstressing the extent of the overlap between each other’s arguably distinct mechanisms.

Exploitation

  • A major problem with classical and most recent theories of exploitation has been that they see the exploitation of economic class by economic class as the root of all evil, as the source of all oppression, and as the engine of all dehumanization. Modern feminist, postmodernist and other emerging theories were a reaction to this overemphasis on the role of class.

Exploitation

  • For the source of a theory of exploitation which both avoids this kind of ideological imperialism and recognizes the manner in which oppression can be distinguished from exploitation, I chose Robin Hahnel’s work.

Exploitation

  • Hahnel recognized that exploitation can be analyzed in terms other than Marxian theories of surplus value. Even mutually beneficial, voluntary economic exchanges can worsen the degree of inequality.

Exploitation

  • Those who begin with a capital advantage will have a competitive advantage in economic exchanges, because they will be able to operate with greater efficiency. This in turn leads to further efficiency gains with each exchange. The result is still greater inequality of income and assets, via accumulation. Exploitation is simply based upon unfair advantage.

Exploitation

  • What is one of the most important concepts which can help understand the outcome of such unfair exchanges? Cumulative disadvantage. Cumulative disadvantage refers to the manner in which over the life course of individuals and of entire groups and communities of people, such unfair exchanges can become institutionalized into a system of economic exploitation.

Exploitation

  • Unjust outcomes follow from transactions between unequal parties within an institutionalized environment. The outcome is a result of exploitation. But Hahnel said unjust outcomes can happen outside the context of exploitation as well. Hahnel’s model of exploitation leaves room for consideration of the relationship of exploitation to oppression and dehumanization.

Oppression

  • Just as Hahnel theorized exploitation in a way which left room to theorize oppression, so Ann Cudd theorizes oppression in a way which leaves room to consider exploitation separately. In fact, Cudd devoted a major portion of his book to showing that exploitation isn’t necessarily oppressive! It may (or may not) be unjust, but it isn’t necessarily oppressive.

Oppression

  • Wait, am I saying that the feminist philosopher Ann Cudd argued that exploitation isn’t necessarily oppressive? Yes, the reason is that Cudd’s theory of oppression requires that all oppression be conceptualized much like Parkin did: as a function of the oppression of one social group by another social group.

Oppression

  • Cudd argued that the origins of different historical examples of oppression may differ and while the effect of oppression on various groups may diverge, oppression has a common set of features.

Oppression

  • By the way, speaking of origins of the concept of oppression, in what body of literature do you feel that the concept of oppression was first introduce? (Class)

Oppression

  • For a set of quotations concerning oppression from the Torah (the Hebrew Bible), the New Testament and the Koran, please see the course website.

Oppression

  • There you can also see that versions of the Golden rule, which stressed not harming or oppressing others, can be found in almost every one of the world’s religions.

Oppression

  • Finally, the word oppression is one which is found as a central theme in NASW’s own Code of Ethics, and I’ve compiled excerpts for those interested.

Oppression

  • Cudd identified four necessary and sufficient conditions for oppression: (1) Harm, (2) Inflicted on a group, (3) by a more privileged group, (4) using unjust forms of coercion.
  • Let’s look at each of these four and then I’ll provide you with a definition of oppression based on Cudd.

Oppression

  • A harm condition related to an identifiable institutional practice;
  • Avoidance of serious harm is a universal human goal according to Doyal and Gough’s Theory of Human Need. Harm is a much theorized concept in moral philosophy. But the harm must be performed in an organized, institutionalized manner, says Cudd.

Oppression

  • (2) A social group condition that requires that the harm be perpetrated by a social institution or established practice on a social group.
  • And that social group must have a pre-existing identity other than that stemming from the presence of the harm condition itself.

Oppression

  • (3) A privilege condition associated with the existence of a social group that benefits from the identified institutional practice;

Oppression

  • (4) A coercion condition consisting of the ability to demonstrate the use of unjust forms of coercion as part of the bringing about of the identified harm.

Oppression

  • Thus, according to Cudd’s theory, oppression involves the infliction of harm in a fully institutionalized way by a more privileged group on another identifiable group via the use of unjust forms of coercion.

Oppression

  • She excluded economic classes per se, because classes may be specific to an economic system. Cudd concluded from a rigorous philosophical analysis that coercion can’t be established as an inherent element of workplace participation under either capitalism or socialism. Therefore, Cudd carefully distinguished oppression from class exploitation.

Oppression

  • Still, Cudd identified both direct and indirect forms of material and psychological oppression. Material oppression takes place when one social group uses violence or economic domination (domination, not exploitation) to reduce the access of persons of another social group to material resources such as income, wealth, health care, the use of space, etc. (Note: much like closure).

Oppression

  • Psychological oppression is both direct and indirect. Direct psychological forces produce inequality through the purposeful actions of members of the dominant group on people in a subordinate group (including the use of terror, degradation and humiliation, and objectification). Direct psychological forces also involve the imposition on the oppressed social group of cultural influence.

Oppression

  • However, indirect psychological forces contribute to inequality by influencing decisions made by oppressed people within the oppressive context in which they live.

Oppression

  • In either direct or indirect forms of oppression, Cudd argued, there are subjective and objective dimensions. Cudd viewed subjective oppression as the conscious awareness that one is in fact oppressed. In other words, a person realizes they are being unjustly and systematically harmed by virtue of their membership in a social group.

Oppression

  • And it is that realization by Cudd which helps introduce today’s exercise, because what it involves is becoming more aware of the ways in which we are oppressed and/or dehumanized and/or exploited, so that we can be more aware of how our clients and communities are oppressed, dehumanization and exploited. But first we need to discuss dehumanization briefly.

Dehumanization

  • I see dehumanization as being best explained by theories developed from the tradition of Durkheim and of institutional analysis. Would anyone like to take another shot at defining dehumanization?

An Example

  • Let’s look at an shot from an early films of Charlie Chaplin, his 1936 film, Modern Times. He portrayed how human beings are increasingly dwarfed by and subjected to the machine.

Dehumanization

  • Recent theoretical and empirical work on the question of dehumanization has distinguished between two forms of dehumanization: animalistic dehumanization and mechanistic dehumanization (Haslam, 2006). This is an important distinction, because it makes it possible to better recognize the relationship between oppression and dehumanization.

Dehumanization

  • Animalistic dehumanization involves one social group denying that another social group has the same set of uniquely human (UH) attributes. This form of dehumanization is called animalistic dehumanization because it is often characterized by the explicit application to the other social group of animalistic characteristics.

Dehumanization

  • Animalistic dehumanization takes place primarily in an intergroup context, in interethnic relations and towards groups of persons with disabilities. It is accompanied by emotions such as disgust and contempt for the members of the other social group. Animalistic dehumanization is fully consistent with the mechanisms spelled out in Cudd’s theory of group-based oppression

Dehumanization

  • Therefore, I exclude Haslam’s theory of animalistic dehumanization from my typology’s source of theories of dehumanization. I only utilize Haslam’s theory of mechanistic dehumanization.

Dehumanization

  • Mechanistic dehumanization involves the treatment of others as not possessing the core features of human nature (HN). Dehumanized individuals or groups are seen as automata (not animals). It is called mechanistic because it is involves “standardization, instrumental efficiency, impersonal technique, causal determinism, and enforced passivity” (Haslam, 2006, p. 260).

Dehumanization

  • It is mechanistic dehumanization which is the form of dehumanization which can be distinguished both from Cudd’s theory of oppression and Hahnel’s theory of exploitation. And it is because that distinction can be made theoretically that it is also important to explore whether there are, at the level of human emotions, words and affective phrases which can characterize the experience of moments of oppression, dehumanization and exploitation.

We’ve All Experienced…

  • Either oppression or exploitation or dehumanization at some point in our lives.
  • Many of use have experienced all three.
  • Human emotions in response to these processes are quite similar.
  • Current thinking is that there is little purpose served by constructing hierarchies of oppression in terms of how much more or less oppressed or exploited people or groups are.

The Exercise

  • We write down on 3x5 cards the words and affective phrases which describe the moment of being oppressed, dehumanized or exploited; our initial reactions to the experience of that moment, and any evolved responses over time (as well as whether we feel they were adaptive or maladaptive). The cards are shuffled and we take turns reading from the 3x5 cards.

For Example

  • beaten down
  • being left behind
  • being used
  • beleaguered
  • belittled
  • blamed
  • boot in the face

Discussion

  • Next we discuss what these words and affective phrases say about the feelings produced by oppression, dehumanization and exploitation.

Discussion

  • A previously developed compendium of words and affective phrases is displayed (see PDF file). Discussion centers on the use of the exercise and compendium in classroom learning and teaching and in the field by social workers seeking to be more sensitive to the feelings of clients.

Use of the Compendium

  • Some words and affective phrases are associated with the moment of an act of oppression, dehumanization or exploitation.
  • Other words and phrases describe emotions experienced after the moment of the act but in reaction to that act or similar acts.
  • Other words and affective phrases describe emotions which evolve over time due to the experience of such acts: adaptive and maladaptive.

Conclusion

  • This exercise roots a social worker's empathy within a sociocultural context. It provides a platform for developing a more effective individualization of the client within this context. It makes empathy a less mysterious and abstract, and more achievable phenomena. If a social worker is in touch with her or his own oppression, dehumanization and exploitation, this helps overcome barriers or differences between the worker and client by reducing any sense of distance from the client the worker may feel. This is one step towards cultural competence.


The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2016
send message

    Main page