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Saturday 4:15pm

A Marxist critique of privilege theory

Left debates

Introduced by Sydney socialist activist Kim Murphy.

Privilege politics emerged in the 1960s as a framework for understanding and explaining oppression, particularly in relation to anti-African American racism in the United States. Left debates about privilege politics have re-emerged in the recent past as contemporary radicalising mileus have looked to privilege politics to understand oppression, and some socialists have seen it as a means to fix perceived gaps in Marxist theory.

But does the concept of privilege add to an understanding of oppression? Is oppression fostered and reproduced by an intangible system of privileges? And does Marxist theory need augmenting to reliably understand oppression?

This session will be offering a critique of privilege politics, looking at its theoretical limitations, and weakness in offering a strategy to fundamentally combat oppression. It will be making a case that Marxism is a framework which on its own terms allows us to grapple with the complexities and sensitivities of oppression, and points towards the means to upend the system that creates it.


What’s wrong with privilege theory?’ by Esme Choonara and Yuri Prasad from International Socialism Journal #142


‘How capitalism creates oppression’ by Louise O’Shea from Red Flag https://redflag.org.au/node/5494

Privilege and the working class’ by Candace Cohn from Socialist Worker (US)


Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump by Asad Haider



Privilege theorists:

White Blindspot’ by Noel Ignatin and Ted Allen (1967)


White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ by Peggy Mcintosh (1989)


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