Polities change, oppression remains: On the psychology and politics of oppression

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101 Scopus citations


While both postindustrial and emerging states face economic, cultural, and political changes, the constant of oppression remains. Economically and culturally marginalized groups continue to endure untold degrees of suffering. From a moral point of view, it is imperative that social scientists attend to the needs of the oppressed. This paper examines the dynamics of oppression in postindustrial and emerging states from both a psychological and political perspective. The reality of oppression may be understood from various levels of analysis, from the macrolevel of global economic and political structures, to the microlevel of internalized psychological images of inferiority. A comprehensive analysis of oppression will emerge only from an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the political with the psychological. Otherwise, efforts to reduce conditions of oppression will be inhibited by limited perspectives that neglect either the internal or external domains. We explore some of the psychological mechanisms accounting for oppression, such as learned helplessness, internalization of hegemonic self-rejecting views, and obedience to authority. Some of the political mechanisms accounting for oppression in emerging countries include the oppressive structure of international financial systems and internal colonization. We conclude by outlining the process of conscientization necessary to overcome conditions of oppression at all levels of analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-148
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Consciousness raising
  • Emancipation
  • Empowerment
  • Oppression
  • Political oppression
  • Psychological oppression
  • Social theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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