The questions these 'notes' pose concern the degree to which Neo-Liberalism and globalisation have become systematically oppressive’. This short piece draws heavily on the fine work done on oppression by Mullaly as outlined in, Challenging Oppression. [Image: 'The Philosopher: Las Vegas Street Scene, 2010'Copyright, Ian Irvine, all rights reserved, 2010.
I'll open with a number of statements and questions worth exploring in relation to possible psychosocial consequences of extreme forms of capitalism on those unable to compete successfully within the paradigm
- To understand the oppressive possibilities of hyper-capitalism we have to understand what thinkers mean by the term oppression. Also, can we speak of multiple forms of oppression?
- It's also worth looking at the various ways in which oppressors‘justify their oppressive actions. Thus, what is the language/perspective used by oppressor groups and to what degree do such groups have the ability to control public discourse?
- Does the monopolization of‘fixed capital/ resources/ money etc. by a small section of a population (as in monopoly or oligarchical capitalism) produce states of psychological oppression among those locked out?
- What is it like to be oppressed what are the symptoms?
- Finally how can an understanding of international conventions on Human Rights critique forms of economic oppression or systemic or structural violence?
In the past many‘ideologies focused in on particular forms of oppression (Mullaly has described such models as‘'parallel models of oppression'). We can list examples of well known 'parallel' perspectives:
- Class based/economic oppression, also Imperialism’ – (Marxist/socialist theorists)
- Gender based oppression (Feminist theorists)
- Oppression due to ethnic difference - (racism. (Anti-colonial theorists)
- Age based oppression
- Oppression of those with disabilities
- Oppression due to sexual orientation (Gay rights movement).
- Oppression of children (various children's rights movements/ psychological perspectives).
- Existentialism argued that‘individuals are often oppressed/ forced to conform by society/the public/the herd. They critiqued authoritarian political and social structures of all descriptions.
- Oppression of animals and plants in the environment by humans (green movement, deep-ecology, animal rights groups).
- Multiple forms of oppression encoded into language and other cultural sign systems. (Postmodern deconstructionist critiques)
Many of these formulaitons of oppression, it will be noticed, emphasise what we might call‘moral forms of oppression i.e. they’are interested in Maslow's higher human needs, e.g. the need for self-actualisation, spiritual needs, emotional needs, the need for love/affection, etc. important needs, certainly.
Of late theorists have moved to another model of oppression.
* The Intersectional Model of Oppression.
In the new theorizing, oppression is seen as a subtle, complex, and multifaceted phenomenon rather than a simple monolithic experience (the old Parallel Model of Oppression). Currently, for example, it is theorized that most people experience both the role of the oppressor and the role of the oppressed during their lives. Likewise, one can be oppressed in various ways e.g. a person may experience both economic oppression and gender oppression, i.e. two or more forms may interact with each other to produce an exponentiallty more lethal outcome.
Why Economic Ideologies like Neo-Liberalism could be seen as primary in any discussion of the principle causes of oppression:
* Economic forms of oppression threaten basic survival needs if one has no food, clothing, home, health-care, etc. one will struggle to survive in the world. We thus need to ask of any given economic or political system fundamental questions concerning its capacity to satisfy basic material needs AND higher level needs.
* Many billions of people around the world struggle to fulfill basic survival needs for themselves and their children. Many higher level needs are basically meaningless if one has no food, shelter, etc. - … kindness and empathy alone will not feed a hungry infant.
* Given the evidence accumulating as to the real world consequences of Neo-Liberal assaults on the social fabric in a range of nations, we need to ask: to what degree does Neo-Liberalism serve as a mechanism for denying basic human needs/rights to sectors of the world's population? How well do Neo-liberal theorists answer critiques associated with:
1. the Neo-Liberal tendency toward ‘monopolization of resources/ capital/ infrastructure etc. by the few.
2. the‘inequality of opportunity associated with Neo-Liberal policies which result in Human Rights violations as described under UN law, etc.
3. Neo-Liberal oppression of those who cannot compete as ‘'entrepreneurs' in the new global market-place.
4. the real world failures of the ideology across Asia, South America, among disenfranchised sectors of Western economies, and elsewhere?
Unfortunately, many responses, to date, to these kind of questions have been couched in what Mullaly calls 'the language of the oppressor', which typically work toward denial, minimisation and reification of well-reported negative outcomes. In short many neo-liberals have no interest what-so-ever in the well-being of the majority world - the Social Darwinistic element to the ideology guarantees a kind of Malthusian disregard for the failures of the ideology. Indeed system failure of asort is championed - is seen merely as a corrective device implicit to the market,and an impetus to action and initiative. High levels of social traumasupposedly fuel competition, a theoretical mainstay of the ideology.
The Language/Sign Systems of the Oppressor
Oppressors Exert Control Over the Needs Fulfilment Possibilities of Others. By definition an oppressor has control over the‘access of the oppressed to the satisfaction of various human needs/rights In a society this boils down to control of the ways in which the‘dominant institutions function (economy, military, welfare system, health-care system, education system, etc.) Oppressive groups often attempt to control the type of information disseminated to oppressed individuals–through public discourse channels. This control of public discourse can be done in various ways: 1. direct censorship of anti-oppressive perspectives, 2. criminalization of anti-oppressive perspectives (through legislation authorizing imprisonment, fines, surveillance, job loss, etc.), 3. economic censorship (directing money only to those who outline the‘dominant discourse), 4. ownership of important media in a society such that anti-oppressive discourses are never given an airing.
Typically the language of the oppressor, in terms of the suffering of the oppressed, is a language of‘blame. Often it reverts the real world situation of oppression by placing the oppressed in the position oppressor.
Oppressors may describe the oppressed as:
Inferior in various ways
Incapable of looking after themselves
Sub-human (thus unworthy of human consideration)
Whenever you hear this kind of‘language ask the question: Who is in economic/ political control here? i.e. Who has the power to control the needs of the other?
Attitudes Toward International Standards of Human Rights
Another way of deciding who is oppressing who in any given situation, is to plot the real world consequences of an ideology in relation to the human rights of variousstakeholder individuals or groups. This entails some understanding of UN conventions on Human Rights, also some understanding of what constitutes‘human rights violation. What are human rights is a good starter question? Typically oppressors deny, minimize or actively repress the realization that their actions amount to human rights violations they thus ignore international human rights standards, even to the point of denigrating the authority which has set up these standards. On occasion those who speak about human rights abuses may receive further punishment/abuses. Oppressors often act like school-yard bullies.
What it’is Like to Be Oppressed, Symptoms (are you oppressed or are you part of the‘dominant culture?)
* Recent theorizing on oppression has also suggested that we can outline certain psychological and behavioural characteristics typically experienced by people undergoing various levels of social oppression. We may refer to them as ways of handling oppression (coping strategies).
- Mimesis of the oppressor
- Escape from Identity
- Psychological Withdrawal ("Don't pay any attention to me I won't make a fuss.")’
- Guilt-Expiation Rituals
- Magical Ideologies
- In-Group Hostility (poor person's snobbery)
- Social withdrawal.
* Characteristics of Internalised Oppression: In recent times the impact of‘internalised oppression (some times referred to by way of theories concerning The Master-Slave Paradigm and false consciousness) on the psychic life and interpersonal relations of the oppressed has been much studied. (see page 127 of Mullaly Challenging Oppression). When the oppressed person‘internalises oppression some of the following are involved.
- Various forms of social control pervade the ‘oppressed’ person’s life.
- The oppressed person may internalize the oppressor without by adopting the guidelines of the oppressor. One sees oneself through the eyes of the oppressor.
- A generalized feeling of worthlessness, dishonour, dependency and lack of integrity results.
- An inferiority complex coupled with repressed rage is often typical of internal oppression. This rage may be acted out on oneself of ones loved ones (especially if one is impotent to attack the true cause of the oppression) in the form of ‘horizontal violence’.
- Whenever the oppressor meets the oppressed the oppressor exudes confidence and sense of entitlement and demands ‘more’ whereas the oppressed person displays self-doubt and a readiness to compromise.
- Everyday living is often a challenge for oppressed persons. The high degree of versatility and internal repression demanded of those who are ‘oppressed’ makes for a susceptibility to morbidity, incarceration , mortality and psychiatric hospitalization. It is personally stressful to have to conform to the values/expectations/whims of oppressor groups.
Curing Maladies of the Subject Caused by Oppression: Those who approach ‘maladies of the subject’ (for example, many forms of diagnosed mental illness) from the sociological/psychological liberationist perspective typically see a cure in terms of some level of social change (if not at the macro-level, certainly in terms of the individual’s day to day engagement with social institutions) allied with specific counselling/psychotherapeutic techniques designed to undo the affects of ‘oppression’ on the individual. The expression of constructive anger is often seen as a powerful curative process. Clearly, removal of external oppressive circumstances is a primary step toward overcoming the internal consequences of experiencing prolonged oppression. From this perspective there is an implicit critique of normalizing institutions and ideologies—are they merely extensions of the dominant oppressor world-view? For writers techniques associated with ‘undoing oppressive discourses’ would be central to any attempt to liberate oppressed minorities (promote social justice).