The concept of privilege: a critical appraisal

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In this essay, I examine the use of the concept of privilege within the critical theoretical discourse on oppression and liberation. In order to fulfill the rhetorical aims of liberation, concepts for privilege must meet what I term the ‘boundary condition’, which demarcates the boundary between a privileged elite and the rest of society, and the ‘ignorance condition’, which establishes that the elite status and the advantages it confers are not publicly recognised or affirmed. I argue that the dominant use of the concept of privilege cannot fulfill these conditions. As a result, while I do not advocate for the complete abandonment of the rhetoric of privilege, I conclude that it obscures as much as it illuminates, and that the critical theoretical discourse on liberation and oppression should be suspicious of its use.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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