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Power Oppression And Society Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2325 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Critically explore the commonalities and differences between the experiences of two of the following groups: people with mental health difficulties and older people.

In this essay I will study disability as an area of oppression in society. During my first part I will search the meaning of discrimination and oppression within our society. The significance of anti-discriminatory practice will be debated and tracked by an introduction and description of the PCS model of analyses. Thompson (1993) is used to highlight discrimination and oppression on three different levels.

Discrimination and oppression are common features that prevent ethnic minorities from achieving professional status within the labour market. Giddens (1993) defines discrimination as an activity which serves to disqualify the members of one grouping from the opportunities available to others.

Penn and Wykes (2003) identified that there is evidence of less favourable social interactions, discrimination in work opportunities and housing as well as their access to health care. Discrimination is the consequence of lack of knowledge about mentally ill. Opportunities provided to people with mental ill health are diminished as a result of false perceptions that these people are dangerous and lack personal responsibility.

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Oppression can be defined as a situation where an individual, group, society, culture or state, have power, be it economic, military or political; and exercise that power to disadvantage, and or overpower those who do not. Oppression means control. It focuses directly on the power relationship that gives an entity the power to discriminate against another. The mere perception of another group’s existence can produce discrimination. When people are arbitrarily and randomly divided into two groups, knowledge of the other group’s existence is a sufficient condition for the development of pro-in-group and anti-out-group attitudes. These artificial groups are known as minimal groups. (Brown 1988)

The term, ‘mental health problem’ is used to cover a wide range of problems which affects an individual’s ability to lead a ‘normal’ lifestyle. The World Health Organisation (WHO, 1980) defines mental health as “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health is not a straightforward subject; it may reflect issues linked to power or powerless experiences that have a profound effect on individuals, factors such as oppression. People with disabilities can also experience oppression when leaving the education system and entering the labour market. For example, access to employment can be restricted as a result of limited qualifications. This is directly linked to people with impairments living on low incomes. Therefore, lack of educational opportunity and contributes to a high number of disabled people experiencing poverty (Swain et al. 2004). The medical model of disability is seen as being a discriminatory perspective that perceives disability as a personal tragedy. In contrast, Thompson (2006) regards the social model of disability as being an anti-discriminatory perspective that requires a change in how we view disability. Lack of inclusion, segregated education, isolation and poor job prospects, these key factors all impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Disability has been a source of oppression where disabled people have been socially excluded from many areas of social life. This exclusion can be traced back to an era when biblical ideas formed the basis of society. This religious model of disability produced notions of what was acceptable and not acceptable this included the exclusion of imperfections of the body. Imperfect bodies were presented as immoral and disability was perceived as a punishment inflicted on a person for their sins (Clapton & Fitzgerald 1997).Older people population are to increase as a group of service users that experience discrimination and oppression that Thompson (1993) has described in three levels of the PCS analysis. As we are having older people population; there aren’t enough funds and acceptable supplies, therefore it means that older people are more exposed to bad practice. With no lack of sufficiently qualified professionals in the caring sectors older people are become more vulnerable. In this society older people are negatively respected and they are blamed of being useless on the national economic and social resources.

Berthoud, R (2003), concluded “individuals with multiple disadvantages where more likely to be unemployed”, he highlighted disadvantages as being from a minority ethnic origin, having a disability, your age, the level of skill you have and your family structure. Further studies and investigations have highlighted the structural prejudice and racial barriers black people; children face to full social inclusion.

Racism is a diversity of ideologies and social processes by which accredited participation of assumed racial groups is taken to justifying discrimination against other groups (Solomos 2003). Dominelli, (1989) recommended acceptance that one supposed races, power over others justifies it greater power over physical and economic resources, and cultural values. Racism is perpetuated through structures and belief systems that characterizing black people as problematic, which then apply negative characteristics to all black people like stereotyping. This in turn leads to oppression, discrimination, of black people (Dominelli, 1989)

Brown (1988) points out that inter-group discrimination in this minimal group situation has proved to be a remarkably robust phenomenon. The mere act of allocating people into arbitrary social categories is sufficient to elicit biased judgments’ and discriminatory behaviors.

The aims of the Equality Act (2010) in relation to Race and Ethnicity is to address the three major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age by reforming and harmonizing equal rights to all citizens regardless of their personal characteristics. It also promises to prohibit victimization and to increase equality of opportunity (Equality Act 2010).

In 2000 the Race Relations Act was amended which looked more closely at public service equality by defining ‘public authority’ widely to include housing, health and other welfare services (Race Act 2000). The publication of the Macpherson report in 1999 identified that discrimination exists in institutions such as policing, education and housing. The evidence of Institutional discrimination was found apparent in the case of Stephen Lawrence in 1991, the black teenager who was murdered in what was called a racial attack. The family of the murdered teenager felt they had been poorly supported by the police because of their color (Macpherson 1999).

According to Thompson (1997) oppression can be analysed using a model that examines three levels of PCS theoretical approach.

Personal (P) level is normally concerned with an individual’s views, particularly in the case of prejudice against a certain group of people. It is purely related to individual actions and you are likely to come into contact with this in practice. The ‘P’ is located in the middle of the diagram, because that individual has his beliefs and ideas supported through two other levels.

Cultural (C) Level; as this analysis relates to the ‘shared values’ or ‘commonalities’, patterns of thought and manners. It can create conformity to social norms for transferring and reinforcing into this culture.

Structural (S) Level; as this analysis demonstrates how oppression is ‘sewn into the fabric’ of society through institutions that support both cultural norms and personal beliefs. Some institutions such as sections of the media, religion and the government can cement the beliefs.

Also, social attitudes towards individuals who have a disability can effect an employer’s decision on rejecting or accepting applications for employment (Roulstone 1988). Graham et al (1990) stated that disabled people are less likely to be accepted for a position of employment than someone who is not disabled. This can be linked to negative social attitudes towards disability. These accounts of discrimination and oppression within the labour market are interconnected to the issue of disability and poverty.

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According to Allport (1954) most stereotypes do contain a ‘kernel of truth’, and had recognized the categorization processes involved in stereotyping as an important aspect of general cognitive functioning. Allport built on these ideas arguing that ‘the human mind must think with the aid of categories’. Brislin (1993) suggests that stereotypes are natural and that they reflect people’s need to organize, remember and retrieve useful information as they struggle to achieve goals and meet demands. Brislin also suggests that people see those who are members of the ‘out-group’ as being highly similar and people who are members of the ‘in-group’ as having all kinds of individual differences. We tend to interact with members of our own group and find differences between them. We have limited interaction with other social groups – so we have simplified views of them.

The media is a powerful and influential institution that shapes the representation of disability. For example, the media has the power to shape societal perceptions and attitudes towards those with impairments. Stereotypical images of disability in the media are based on the medical model of disability. Characters are often portrayed as victims in need of help from charities or medical intervention (Swain et al. 2004).

Peoples with disabilities experienced high levels of social exclusion as factory work replaced agricultural work from the home. Those individuals who were unable to sell their labour for power were marginalized and excluded from mainstream society. It is here that state intervention began with the lives of people with impairments. The opening of workhouses, asylums and special education schools brought social control with the rise of a capitalist society. Foucault (1977) contends that the state is a tool used to control individuals in society including the regulation of the body of people with disabilities.

Stereotyping was introduced into social science by Lippman (1922), who defined stereotypes as ‘pictures in our heads’. Lippman (1922) described stereotypes as selective, self-fulfilling and ethnocentric, constituting a ‘very partial and inadequate way of representing the world’. The process of stereotyping involves assigning someone to a particular group (based on an easily recognizable characteristic), brining into play the belief that all members of the group share certain characteristics and infer that this particular individual must possess these characteristics.

Sexism operates within a system that one of the structural measurements of society which is strongly associated with the sexist culture. Weber (1947) had used this concept to describe sexism. He used the term “the law of the father” to refer to the dominance of men within the family. The use of this term however, has been extended to describe the dominance of the males within the employment area and its reflection in the distribution of power; as example in military forces, technology, universities, science, political and even religious sectors.

Webb and Tossell (1999) reported the following statements that women are an oppressed majority. They represent up to 51% of the UK population, however they do not have the same rights as men nor do they have the same access to resources as men do. Women are less likely to obtain the same sort of jobs as men or positions of power. They earn less than men and are a lot more vulnerable to employment. They tend to be in less prestigious jobs and less secure forms of employment. This is mainly due to the discrimination that women are seen as the main “carer” role of the genders, being seen as the mother and the role to be the homemaker rather than the breadwinner, which is stereotypically seen as the male role.There are some criticisms to this theory, according to Brown (1988), if prejudice is to be explained in terms of individual differences, how can it then be manifested in a whole population or at least a vast majority of that population? For example, in pre- war Nazi Germany consistent racist attitudes and behavior were shown by hundreds of thousands of people, who must have differed on most other psychological characteristics. Also anti-Japanese prejudice amongst Americans grew rapidly following the Pearl Harbour attack which was too short a time for a whole generation of authoritarian and prejudiced children to be nurtured.

To conclude, this essay began by giving my understanding of the socially constructed nature of disability as an area of oppression within a historical context. When examining the oppression of disabled people, the institutions and structures I have focused on are the media, education system, employment and social services. I have examined how discrimination manifests itself through society. Thompson (2006) notes how this discrimination is best understood by examining the wider social context that it takes place. This is particularly important for social work when seeking to achieve anti-oppressive practice.


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