Oppression and Power

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Rebus Community


Community Psychology has grown up amidst times in US history and throughout the world where social change has been the interwoven thread throughout urban and suburban spaces. Social change continues to be the thread we must use to construct new realities. Not uncommon, as community psychologists have discovered over the past few years, social change work can often be more effective starting at the community level and then branching outward to macrosystems.

Macrosystems include influences of governmental policies, corporations, and belief systems. To this end, having a firm understanding of the dynamics that challenge communities is critical. This understanding must extend to grappling with some of the more unjust practices such as oppression and power that have influenced and shaped many of our communities today, particularly where members are people of color. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the interrelated concepts of oppression and power and explore their relationship to the health and well-being of communities. We conceptualize oppression and power in upcoming sections. First, we give an overview of what oppression is. Second, we discuss the concept of power. Third, we discuss the relationship between oppression and power, because they typically never act alone. Fourth, we look at methodologies to deconstruct oppression and power. Finally, we offer strategies that can, and are, used in Community Psychology practice.

This chapter expands on the discussion of oppression and power in Chapter 1 (Jason, Glantsman, O’Brien, & Ramian, 2019) and other current Community Psychology textbooks, primarily through the lens of those who have been and continue to be oppressed. Broadly defined through theoretical and abstract concepts, the definition and critical analysis of oppression have left out the complexity, voices, and lived experiences of individuals who have been severely impacted by injustice and oppression. Our ways of knowing and being are credible and of critical importance to students learning how knowledge and power are created and what evidence is most credible in discussing them. We also include information that portrays the strength and resiliency of community members as a balance to the scholarship. The authors’ perspectives and inclusion of the lived experiences of others will add richness and depth to your studies.

Chapter of

Introduction to Community Psychology: Becoming an Agent of Change


Leonard A. Jason
Olya Glantsman
Jack F. O'Brien
Kaitlyn N. Ramian


Introduction to Community Psychology by Geraldine L. Palmer, Jesica S. Fernández, Gordon Lee, Hana Masud, Sonja Hilson, Catalina Tang, Dominique Thomas, Latriece Clark, Bianca Guzman, and Ireri Bernai is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.