(This was written a few years ago as an attempt to sketch my own variant on _Liberating Theory_)
The book, Liberating Theory (LT) by South End Press, identiifies four broad kinds of oppression and resistance: economic, political, relational (kinship in LT), and community. Economic suffering is poverty and economic exploitation. Political suffering is tyranny and authoritarianism. Relational suffering is sexual and gender repression. Communal suffering is racial and religious.
LT’s view of four systems of oppression and social struggle are an advance over the narrower viewpoints that preceded it, such as Anarchism and Marxism. However, the more I have thought about social struggles, I find myself delineating eight distinct arenas of social struggle and change.
The suffering and oppression in our world is systemic. There are structures, institutions, and ideologies that perpetuate suffering and frustrate liberation. For convenience, we can name the four main systems of oppression as Authoritarianism, Capitalism, Sexism, and Xenophobia. Each term is generally usable, though often the systems of oppression are more complex than these classic titles indicate.
Beginning in reverse order from that used above, I will start with communal sub-systems. Probably one of the most pivotal social movements of the 20th century was the Civil Rights movement. This uprising of resistance altered forever the landscape of race relations in USA society. It won significant gains, but the battle to end racial oppression is far from over. Racism is one of the main sub-systems of xenophobia.
Another of the prime sub-systems of xenophobia is sectarianism. This can be religious, in the sense of Christian or Muslim fundamentalism or secular as in the case of Communist State Atheism. Since the middle of the 19th century movements have emerged which aim at worldwide community that transcend religious and ideological prejudices. These movements are based on the vision of a common humanity and active cooperation in social progress. These movements both work within existing sects and in dialogue across sectarian boundaries.
Sexual repression takes a variety of forms, such as heterosexism and erotophobia. The former denies basic human dignity to persons who have a sexual attraction to their own gender. Erotophobia affects both same-sex attractions and heterosexuals. The movements for sexual liberation in society have done a lot of good, but there is still much more work to do in the name of sexual equality.
Finally, the two sub-systems I would highlight in the political area are governance and security. Governance in most of the world today is dominated by Authoritarianism, the repression of democratic participation. Although tyranny is officially not practiced in the USA, in fact, most people have almost no real power to influence political decisions. Security structures in our society are centered on the imposition of force. Both police and the military enforce political repression with violence. Non-violent alternatives to warfare and policing have made great strides in the past century, but a non-violent world is a far off possibility.