We traditional Americans are doing what we can to take on oligarchy, plutocracy, and patriarchy.But our effectiveness is limited if we do not figure out the whys and hows of what our guest Melanie Joy calls “powerarchy.” Her new book is Powerarchy: Understanding The Psychology of Oppression for Social Transformation. The psychologist and author points to aspects of our culture which bolster this structure which is embedded in even liberal social and political movements. She talks of “toxic moral perfectionism” in systems which unintentionally maintain the power structure. She says “Powerarchy is a non-relational system,” meaning it depends on our feeling disconnected from one another. Even in “left” organizations there can be shaming and judging. Because of that psychological dynamic we are less able to get out of old familiar boxes. The antidote, she says, is empathy. To make real change we need to have a thorough understanding of the bases of our accepted powerarchy.

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