Privilege is to victimhood as cowardice is to honor”

Andrew Wilson posted an excerpt from sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning on Think Theology:

The combination of high sensitivity with dependence on others encourages people to emphasize or exaggerate the severity of offenses. There’s a corresponding tendency to emphasize one’s degree of victimization, one’s vulnerability to harm, and one’s need for assistance and protection. People who air grievances are likely to appeal to such concepts as disadvantage, marginality, or trauma, while casting the conflict as a matter of oppression.

The result is that this culture also emphasizes a particular source of moral worth: victimhood. Victim identities are deserving of special care and deference. Contrariwise, the privileged are morally suspect if not deserving of outright contempt. Privilege is to victimhood as cowardice is to honor.

There has been quite a bit about this phenomenon over the past few years, especially in American universities.1 Overall, I tend to agree with what Campbell and Manning are observing here, particularly on victimhood as a new kind of status.”

In some ways, this reminds me of the busy” phenomenon: people say that they don’t like to be busy, yet they are quick to cite how busy they are because there is a certain status to it. There is indeed something like this going on with victimhood, but I wouldn’t attribute the word culture” to it (yet) for two reasons: 1) unlike honor and dignity, victimhood is not the predominant paradigm by which the majority of westerners make their daily decisions, and 2) because calling it victimhood culture” only perpetuates, well, the victimhood phenomenon. To the very bloc that would most benefit from a less tribal worldview, it is a term that is argumentative rather than persuasive.


  1. For example, see here, here, here, and here.


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May 30, 2018 · culture · victimhood · honor · dignity · think theology · Andrew Wilson · Bradley Campbell · Jason Manning

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