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Oppressors–oppressed distinction

Oppressors–oppressed distinction or dominant-dominated opposition is a political concept. One of the first theorists to use it was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who wrote in his 1802 The German Constitution: "The Catholics had been in the position of oppressors, and the Protestants of the oppressed".[1] Karl Marx made the concept very influential, and it is often considered a fundamental element of Marxist analysis.[2][3] Some have judged it simplistic.[3] Many authors have adapted it to other contexts, including Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Antonio Gramsci, Simone Weil, Paulo Freire and others. It has been used in a variety of contexts, including discussions of the bourgeoisie and proletariat, imperialism, and self-determination.[4][5]


Imperialism and self-determinationEdit

The theory of oppressor and oppressed nations has been part of Lenin's thought on imperialism, self-determination and criticisms of Social Democrats.[6]

That is why the focal point in the Social-Democratic programme must be that division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism, and is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists and Kautsky. This division is not significant from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the philistine Utopia of peaceful competition among independent nations under capitalism, but it is most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism

— Lenin, V.I, "The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination", Lenin Miscellany VI[6]


The political philosopher Kenneth Minogue provides a criticism of the oppressors-oppressed distinction in his work The Pure Theory of Ideology.


  1. ^ Translated by H B Nisbet for Cambridge University Press. Original quote:

    Die Katholiken hatten die Stellung von Unterdrückern, die Protestanten die der Unterdrückten

  2. ^ Kauppi (1996) p.61
  3. ^ a b Derrida (1994), ch.2 Conjurying--Marxism p.55
  4. ^ Halabi (2004) pp.59, 74-6
  5. ^ Gordon (1991) p.145
  6. ^ a b Lenin (1927)