The uniqueness of every human being, which is evident when he/she compares himself/herself with other people, makes him/her stand an excellent chance to understand the various things that make him or her different from others. Such exclusivity also exists between identical twins (Considine, 2010, p. 286). Despite the differences, biological, physical, geological, socio-economic aspects often keep groups of people together.
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Since time immemorial, such differences have been the source of injustices that result in oppression and repression. Oppressive behaviors and ideals affect politics, laws, social, and cultural practices (Howard, 1999, p. 414). Oppression results in stigmatization of certain groups and communities.
This results from the reinforced generalized stereotypes. Therefore, one cannot mention the word oppression without referring to people, communities, and or authority (Allen, 2008, p. 158). There is always the oppressor and the oppressed whose unjustified actions make up the various facets of oppression. Therefore, the paper defines oppression in terms of marginalization, exploitation, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence: the key facets of oppression according to Iris Young.
The word oppression, as used in the contemporary world, has lost much of its despotic nature. It has taken an incidental socio-economic dimension (Considine, 2010, p. 287). According to Young, oppression includes people and communities affected by structural systems with no separate antagonist creating poor organizations and inequalities. It is not only the individuals and/or even groups of people who are behind the oppressive nature of society, but also structural systems.
Oppression, as injustice, results from the brutal exercise of authority. Nevertheless, one considers oppression in America in terms of ‘‘Civil Rights movement, and the unjust treatment of blacks that led to it’’ (Young, 1990, p. 392). Several Americans justified the open oppression, which led to the formation of the constitution to protect the rights and freedom of the minority.
Oppression often disadvantages the less fortunate individuals and communities in society. However, it affects the rich and the leaders indirectly (Howard, 1999, p. 405). The effects of injustice are inevitable. In spite of the rich oppressing the poor in society, some individuals, however, experience self-oppression.
Marginalization, as a facet of oppression, is the process of ‘branding’ certain individuals or communities in terms of race and ethnicity, status and or age. Marginalization is the most dangerous form of oppression that eliminates the whole group of people from participating in social life (Allen, 2008, p. 160). They remain unimportant and invisible to others who consider the oppressed as possessing characteristics such as ‘‘violence, low class, unintelligent, or lazy’’ (Young, 1990, p. 396).
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Therefore, such individuals have the trouble of getting employment. Those already in the job face exterminations. This way of depriving people of their right to justice is rampant in a society where others have plenty of resources, as opposed to those without them. An attempt to redistribute social policies becomes unachievable (Howard, 1999, p. 411).
Otherwise, marginalization does not depend on only the provision material items, shelter, food, and excess freedom and rights. It deprives people of the distribution of justice blocking any opportunity to exercise capacities in socially defined and recognized ways.
Welfare redistribution does not eradicate large-scale suffering and dispossession. It only results in new injustices by depriving those who depend on it of their rights and freedoms. For instance, liberalism advocates for the rights of all rational citizenship neglecting those without questionable reasoning such as the poor, women, and children (Considine, 2010, p. 299). Depending on the institutions for services and or another person makes one subject to the service providers.
The administrators who only enforce rules for the marginalized to comply, otherwise, exercise excess power on the oppressed. Therefore, ‘‘dependency in any society is a sufficient warranty to suspend basic rights to privacy, respect, and individual choice’’ (Young, 1990, p. 397). For dependency not to be oppressive, it requires the society to have a high degree of morality because sick people and elders, as well as less fortunate persons in the society, need subsistence and support.
Exploitation is a process that occurs when a class exists in the absence of lawful and normative class divisions. The right to the appropriate product of labor in some societies determines the class in which one belongs (Allen, 2008, p. 159). Some become superior while others remain inferior. As such, ‘‘monetary gains made classifies individuals making their time, work, and skills, worth than others’’ (Young, 1990, p. 393).
In the United States, several non-euro white works in factories while females work as house servants. The exploitation in capitalist society occurs when some individuals exercise their capacities under control and for the benefit of others (Howard, 1999, p. 406). Capitalism systematically transfers power to other people making the capitalist acquire and maintain the ability to benefit from workers.
The injustice of class division and exploitation is a structural relation between the social groups. Social rules work based on who ought to do certain work. Marriage is a class of relation (Considine, 2010, p. 300). Therefore, women’s oppression involves the transfer of their power to men, exclusions from privileged activities, as well as the inequality of status. Women’s labor benefits men without having to pay any compensation or remuneration. For instance, men often take the agricultural produce for women to the market.
However, they receive the entire income for the woman’s labor (Young, 1990, p. 395). The freedom, status, power, and prestige enjoyed by men results from the exploitations of women. Also, the society has put many expectations on women in terms of gender roles that leave them deprived of rights and freedoms.
As such, ‘‘gender exploitation transfers the fruit of material labor to men and nurturing and sexual energies to women’’ (Young, 1990, p. 394). According to feminist theory of gender exploitation, men oppress women because they receive little satisfaction from sexual interaction with men.
Powerlessness characterizes a person’s inability to justify one’s opinion and ideas because of his or her social status. Therefore, “the powerless lack authority and do not participate in the exercise of power” (Howard, 1999, p. 408). However, professional workers are not members of the capitalistic class because they have limited power. As such, capitalist class benefits from the exploitation of both professional and non-professional laborers.
On the other hand, professional workers benefit from the oppression of non-professional workers by their position in the division of labor and career status. In the United States, ‘‘professional and nonprofessional workers belong to different cultures’’ (Young, 1990, p. 398) to the level that the children become professionals while those of nonprofessionals do not. Nonprofessionals remain dependants under the power of professionals.
In a capitalistic society, lacking the power of voice and finance makes one troubled while expressing and backing his/her opinions and experiences. Therefore, it is usually hard for one to rise in status (Allen, 2008, p. 170). For instance, in the United States, just like any other capitalist country, lack of organized democracy in the work places often result into poor participations in policymaking and implementation processes, which are hierarchical (Howard, 1999, p. 407).
Since they lack significant power, most people do not contribute towards making policies that improve the conditions of their lives and actions in terms of work autonomy, creativity and outstanding judgments (Considine, 2010, p. 304). Accordingly, ‘‘the life of a nonprofessional worker is powerless and lacks orientation towards progressive development of capacities and avenue for recognition’’ (Young, 1990, p. 399). The effect thereof is a ‘one-sided’ respect exercised by the powerless towards the powerful in society.
Cultural Imperialism usually involves one group of the dominant culture that considers other cultures and ideals as inferior. The notion stereotyping in society is because of cultural imperialism. The dominant group, therefore, claims universality. In this case, people tend to ‘‘fear new and different things’’ (Young, 1990, p. 400). They take every idea and ideal from the western countries as normal.
This is neocolonialism. As Howard (1999, p. 409) observes, “This thought process has allowed many military leaders to rationalize the ‘civilization’ of the ‘other’”. Every culture has its interpretation and communication.
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Therefore, based on the stereotypes from the dominant group, culturally dominated groups undergo ironic oppression. Culturally imperialistic groups tend to have a sense of positive subjectivity. This leads to the injustice of cultural imperialism where experience and interpretation of social life by the oppressed group touches the dominant culture that imposes its version and practice of social life.
Social violence involves unprovoked attacks on other people and their property with a mere intention of humiliation and destruction. This violence ‘‘is socially and systematically acceptable…by the people in power upon the ‘other’ group’’ (Young, 1990, p. 402). Therefore, violence is a social injustice because it is morally wrong and systematically organized.
For example, racist violence and terror against the blacks between 1980 and 1982, “the lynching of African Americans for looking at a white woman and/or sitting in a white compound, humiliations and harassments of gays and lesbians in the United States are forms of social violence” (Young, 1990, p. 401). The oppression of violence involves direct victimizations making the oppressed live under the fear of attacks, depriving them of their rights, freedom, and dignity.
Based on the expositions made in the paper, it suffices to declare oppression a wide subject. Virtually all people have experienced an oppressive situation. However, the situation may differ depending on the nature of the oppression. Oppressive situations are more complex. Therefore, it becomes almost impossible to express a single set of standards that fit both the oppressed and the oppressors. The paper has described the nature and the facets of oppression and oppressive behaviors based on Young’s article of justice issues.
Any process that deprives individuals of their rights and freedoms to the level that they are not able to participate accordingly in social cooperation influencing their cultural practices is unjust and oppressive (Howard, 1999, p. 412). Oppression limits the ability of certain individuals to exercise their rights. However, every human being will ever be unique. On the other hand, political, physical, natural and socio-economic aspects will always keep certain groups together.
Considine, K. (2010). A “collective black” liberation in the face of “honorary white” Transnational Justice. Hypatia, 23(3), 157-172.
Allen, A. (2008). Power and the Politics of Difference: Oppression, Empowerment, and Racism? A growing edge for US black liberation theologies. Black Theology: An International Journal, 8(3), 286-306.
Howard, M. (1999). The African-American Underclass and the Question of Values. New York: Temple University Press.
Young, I. (1990). Social Ethics, Morality and Social Policy, seventh Edition. New York: Princeton University Press.