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Do Oppression and Exploitation Require the Consent of the Victim?

+1 vote
"It should be noted, from the jump, that there can be no really pervasive system of oppression, such as that in the United States, without the consent of the oppressed."  Florynce Kennedy (1970)
asked Nov 19 by anonymous

This feels more like a statement rather than a question. It would seem that in Institutional Oppression vs. The Female Florynce Kennedy is arguing that consent to oppression is implicit rather than explicit, for the most part.  It reminds me of arguments for the "social contract" stuff wherein one doesn't have a choice on the matter. 

I found a pdf of the article where the random quote came from if anyone wants to read it. https://gallery.mailchimp.com/a84b2619f737ac1cec0f75881/files/kennedy_institutionalized_oppression.pdf

require? i seriously doubt it, not when the oppressors have far superior force. but it sure does help when they can coerce it in other ways.
Obviously a loaded question. Besides flat out murder and assault all long term interactions require some sort mutual exchange, the anarchist's criticism is more or less an attempt to reveal the abuses of power and hierarchy.
Foucault says somewhere, I think in one of his interviews though I'm not sure which one, that for there to be power relations at all there must in a very minimal way be a kind of "consent"/participation on both sides. Otherwise it's not power, but simply force. I think at the limit of this definition we could think of a prisoner whose limbs are completely immobilized by chains. As long as he is able to choose whether to talk back, spit, grimace, etc., this is a relation of power. But his ability to act is clearly so slight in this scenario that it could easily turn into a completely senseless beating. Just force.

Depending on what you mean by consent, I would either agree with the above or suggest that consent to oppression is impossible.
"Otherwise it's not power, but simply force"

in individual relationships, things can get much more nuanced and interesting. but if we are speaking of oppression/exploitation as an institutional thing...

yeah, i'm thinking that whoever is being oppressed/exploited doesn't much care how someone else defines their condition, especially if they have no ability to change those conditions. in most (if not all) cases force underlies power anyway.

if i am that prisoner, chained and bound; whether i can spit at or talk back to my captors doesn't change how i see that situation in the least. power, force... who the fuck cares, i have no control over my situation. and regardless of whether or not i can spit at them, in no way have i "consented".
yes....and.....no....fuck the binary for the myriad possibilities....oppression and exploitation occur within the interchange between two or more bodies.....or minds.....
I'm arguing that there's basically zero nuance or question about this: in virtually any interpersonal relationship I can think of there is at least a minimal kind of involvement, "consent" if you wish to call it that, on the part of the injured person.

i agree that individual (personal) relationships can have much more nuance and depth. but the question specifically refers to "system of oppression", which to me points to a more institutional meaning of the word. (i'm not saying individual relations are not impacted by systems/institutions, only saying that i can see them as distinct from each other, even if often interrelated).

to imply that institutional oppression derived from force - say, chattel slavery - requires consent of the enslaved is beyond a stretch to me. that is what kanye west apparently thinks.

or take human trafficking... while no doubt some may begrudgingly submit to such horrors in the effort to save their children or families or lives or whatever, i'm guessing many/most of them do not give consent of any sort.

but of course, the definition of "consent" probably becomes the major point of contention here.

funky: "but of course, the definition of "consent" probably becomes the major point of contention here."

as well as the definition of "oppression" and "exploitation"....not to mention the yes/no phrasing of the question....

for example, if "oppression" exists in terms of compulsory schooling today (including the "institution" of the school system) , most people give "consent" in terms of agreeing to go to school or willingly sending their daughters and sons to school, even without any physical force present. of course, the indigenous people around the places where i've lived, at one time got physically forced (or otherwise killed) to attend school, and even some young people today first arrive at school kicking and screaming with their parents dragging them into class.....so yes, and no....

1 Answer

+2 votes
Did you consent to have a state and a government? Did you consent to subject yourself to the power of the police force? Did you consent to being born in a capitalist society? Have you tried to live without being part of the capitalist system? (Squot somewhere, dumpster dive, steal internet or live off the grid or sth etc?... pretty shitty existence, it is. Not a very reasonable alternative.)

This just sounds like blaming the people for being cucks and working for capitalists. It ain't that simple. Read some history about how anarchists tried to actually make a social and economic change, and actually had a big following, BUT were in all cases met with completely disproportionate amount of military and police violence. An abundance of it. You can do an experiment and try to not adhere to the status quo rules (i.e. the laws), and you will feel the oppression and the hierarchy physically, pretty immediately.
answered Nov 27 by Estgirl (160 points)
i agree with almost everything in your post.

while it is not really possible to live completely outside the capitalist system, i have spent the better part of the past 20 years trying do so as much as possible. i've squatted, dumpster dived, and lived off grid for most of that time. i do not find it to be a shitty existence in the least - on the contrary, it is the most free i have ever been in my damn near (way too near) 60 years on this planet.

but it is not for everyone. i grew up and spent my first 40 years loving urban life. now i could never see going back to it.

desires, priorities, intentions, motivations... everyone has their own.
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