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Oppression - Essay Example

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Similarly, the social sciences have developed a "sociology of disasters," which describes and analyzes behaviour caused by natural factors.
Man-made oppression, however, is of a different character. Whereas "natural" oppressions are overt and easily recognizable, man-made-or socially induced--oppression has, as a rule, to be unmasked, even though in social life, oppression, like power, is ubiquitous. Moreover, unlike naturally induced oppression, the concept of man-made oppression accepts as its basic assumption the concept of free will. The existential idea that an individual can be the "master of his fate," or even that he/ she is "sentenced to freedom," radically alters the perception of human made oppression from the traditional notion that the human condition is one of pain and the creation of pain.
Oppression is, above everything else, a condition of being, a particular stance one is forced to assume with respect to oneself, the world, and the exigencies of change. It is a pattern of hopelessness and helplessness. People only become oppressed when they have been forced (either subtly or with obvious malice) to finally succumb to the insidious process that continually undermines hope and subverts the desire to "become." The process, which often is self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing, leaves in its wake the kinds of human beings who have learned to view themselves and their world as chronically, almost genetically, estranged. The end product is an individual who is, in fact, alienated, isolated, and insulated from the society of which he nominally remains a member. He and society are spatially joined but psychologically separate: they inhabit parallel but nonreciprocal worlds (Goldberg 1978: 2-3).
The recent work of Young is an interesting exception, for she uses the concept of oppression in a more elaborate and precise way, heavily influenced by a "soft" type of Marxism that is quite normative: "In its new usage, oppression designates the disadvantage and injustice some people suffer not because a tyrannical power coerces them, but because of the everyday practices of a well-intentioned liberal society" (Young 1990: 41). She suggests that there are five "faces" of oppression. The first, exploitation, is "a steady process of the transfer of the results of the labour of one social group to benefit another." For example, exploitation could be based on the oppression of women, or on manipulation of conditions related to race or menial labor. The second, marginalization, is "the most dangerous form of oppression." It has mainly a material form and is, according to Young, a situation in which "a whole category of people is expelled from useful participation in social life." The third, powerlessness, is described negatively; Young argues that "the powerless lack the authority, status, and the sense of self that professionals tend to have." The fourth, cultural imperialism, "involves the universalisation of a dominant group's experience and culture, and its establishment as the norm." The fifth and final face of oppression is systematic violence (Young 1990: 48-65).
Young believes that these criteria are objective. Her approach ...Show more

Summary

The type of oppression that is imposed by nature is well known. It consists of the pains of sickness, the weaknesses of old age, the various liabilities of the body (its limited capabilities, infirmities, or degenerations), and all such stress-causing factors…
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