Diversifying Syllabi: The concept of ‘oppression’ cannot be captured by traditional, distributive conceptions of justice. Oppression is also not a unified phenomenon with an underlying, fundamental essence. To make sense of oppression, we need to revise our accounts of social ontology to recognize the existence of “groups.” Social groups can experience oppression in any of the following, crucially distinct five ways: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Individuals within these groups can experience all, multiple, or just one of these forms of oppression and can also find themselves, simultaneously, in dominant groups/positions in other contexts. A revised social ontology that accounts for the existence of such groups shows that redistribution of material goods will not eliminate these forms of oppression.
Comment: This text is most useful in teaching on the nature of justice, as it offers a valuable alternative to the theories typically discussed in undergraduate classes. It offers a great introduction to the notion of systemic injustice and issues in gender and racial discrimination. Since the text is written in a fairly approachable way, it can offer a good introductory text in some junior courses, stimulating reflection on issues typically taken for granted.