Friday, March 15, 2013

Judith Orr on privilege theory

How can women win liberation?:
Concentrating on individual men instead of the system feeds an argument that the imposition of male power causes women’s oppression. It assumes that all men hold power over all women.

This view, commonly referred to as patriarchy, can reflect the way society appears. But it doesn’t help us understand the roots and nature of oppression, or its useful function for capital.

Instead it entrenches fragmentation within the working class. And it sees oppression as being an unchanging feature of human society with no possibility of change.

This is the mistake of those who argue for a form of privilege theory.

This theory isn’t new, but it is gaining an audience as a way of explaining oppression. It relies on the idea that if you are white or male, for example, you gain privilege simply by being part of a “dominant” section of society.

So a working class white man supposedly benefits from the privilege of being white and male in a racist and sexist society. This reduces structural inequality and oppression to relationships between individuals.