rights activist Bernadette McAliskey coined the
phrase "don't appeal to the conscience of
your oppressors - they have none" In her
book POWER and Powerlessness, Susan Rosenthal
reinforces this view and explains in detail why.
takes the view that society is divided into two
groups, one that wields immense power (the ruling
class) and another that experiences varying degrees
of powerlessness (the working class). A medical
doctor and psychotherapist with first-hand experience
of broken lives and human suffering, Rosenthal
explains why the few dominate the many and why
the many stay powerless
one were to design a human being that was perfectly
suited to the capitalist system, Rosenthal
contends that person would be a psychopath.
Backed up by the American Psychiatric Association's
definition of a psychopath, she makes the point
that the capitalist system, like the psychopath,
is disconnected from emotions, having no empathy
and no compassion, "a pervasive pattern
of disregard for and violation of the rights of
others". She propagates, Capitalism
is the most violent society ever created. The
violence of those who fight the system is minuscule
ruling class profits at any human cost. 'Seize
the surplus' and 'compete or die' ensure
that the biggest bully rules. It is more profitable
to overwork one section of the labour force and
keep the rest unemployed; maintaining a pool of
unemployed workers pressures those with jobs to
accept conditions they might otherwise reject.
A myth is perpetuated that anyone can make
it to the top if they work hard enough, are smart
or ambitious enough. As a result, workers
blame themselves and each other when they fail
of the middle ground she cautions. The role
of the middle class is to manage the working
class. Within the middle class there are many
well-intentioned Robin Hoods who lobby for a more
humane capitalist system. They want reform, not
revolution. Rosenthal insists that the capitalist
system cannot be reformed. We need a completely
different system based on reciprocity, where no
one takes anything from others or from nature
without giving back.
advocate of maximising our similarities and minimising
our differences, she condemns Nationalism which
unites people in one country by dividing them
from the people of other counties. Employers
play workers of different nations against each
other to lower wages. Capital flows freely across
borders in search of profits, yet borders block
workers from uniting to raise their living standards.
Capitalism gives workers two choices: be loyal
to your nation and betray your class; or be loyal
to your class and betray your nation.
analyses why people are weary of organising for
an alternative to capitalism. Failed revolutions
leave people dejected and believing that it is
not possible to win. She argues that the working
class in Russia was unable to hold onto power
because there were no neighbouring revolutions
to come to its aid, not because socialism doesn't
work. When people feel powerless, they use the
psychological defence mechanism of dissociation.
They disconnect from their turmoil and find escape
where there is none. This state of mind enables
inequality and exploitation to continue.
much has been written about the problems of capitalism,
Rosenthal has alternatives and solutions. She
hasn't given up hope for the future because "Humanity
is nature's youngest child." Capitalism is
international, and the response to capitalism
must be internationally organised. Workers must
take charge of their unions, which have been purged
of class-conscious militants and replaced by conservative
bureaucrats. Rosenthal gives a powerful account
of how life could be under a socialist system.
those who support human and workers' rights, reading
this book will crystallize their thinking. Those
who are willing to open their minds to new ways
of thinking will be left with much food for thought.
Rosenthal's book will inspire all those who long
for a better world. She has demonstrated a deep
insight and knowledge into the workings of the
system and her conviction that we can transform
powerlessness into power will motivate many.