Systemic Humiliation as Daily Social Suffering – Københavns Universitet

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16. maj 2017

Systemic Humiliation as Daily Social Suffering

In a new release it has been concluded that humiliation leads to physical, social, and moral suffering. Together with his colleague, Daniel Rothbart, Associate Professor Poul Poder gives depth to the notion of systemic humiliation in ther contribution to the book 'Alleviating World Suffering'. They do so by identifying five instruments in the chapter 'Systemic Humiliation as Daily Social Suffering' that are deployed in many societies of stark power imbalance.

In certain societies humaliation promote extreme social inequalities, a group of dominant elites deploys instruments designed to control marginalized group members through propaganda, by diminishing their self-worth, and by instilling a sense of being unworthy of the respect and dignity of others. These instruments may appear innocuous, as when civil-society leaders render "reasonable" decisions, government officials establish "essential" directives, and bureaucrats implement "common sense" policies. But their effect is to promote the collective suffering of marginalized people. Poul Poder and Daniel Rothbart examine the dynamics of systemic humiliation through the use of five instruments: (1) laws that unjustly favor social elites, (2) an ideology of supremacy that rationalizes such laws, (3) a language that essentializes the degraded people, (4) images that reinforce such a status, and (5) symbols that in effect erase the achievements and capacities of these people. Drawing upon recent developments in social identity theory, moral philosophy, sociological theory, and clinical psychology, they argue that systemic humiliation generates social pain that is experienced as annulment of one's inherent value; it is an affront to suffering persons' moral selves. Mitigation of systemic humiliation is particularly challenging, as it operates without easily identifiable agents/humiliators. They conclude with preliminary recommendations regarding the need to adopt multiple perspectives to alleviate suffering caused by such humiliation.

Associate Professor Poul Poder, Systemic Humiliation as Daily Social Suffering, Alleviating World Suffering, Springer, 2017.