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Privilege, Power, and Difference

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,355 ratings  ·  139 reviews
This brief book is a groundbreaking tool for students and non-students alike to examine systems of privilege and difference in our society. Written in an accessible, conversational style, Johnson links theory with engaging examples in ways that enable readers to see the underlying nature and consequences of privilege and their connection to it. This extraordinarily success ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published February 11th 2005 by McGraw-Hill Education (first published 2001)
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Parker obviously its already been a year and you probably already dealt wth this but since i saw it and can answer.... the second edition, he adds ability(ab…moreobviously its already been a year and you probably already dealt wth this but since i saw it and can answer.... the second edition, he adds ability(ableism) as one of the main axes of privilege/oppression that he discusses in some detail. but the framework he uses remains the same so you could get the first and probably just keep that in mind.(less)

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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  1,355 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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May 13, 2012 rated it liked it

Everyone seems to have loved the book. I didn't think it was that amazing. Yeah, he is a white male heterosexual who sees the inequalities around him and he raised some really good points, but I just thought that the book was extremely repetitive. If you read the first 2 chapters, you don't even have to read the rest of the book because it's the exact same ideas in more or less the exact same words. It's a nice easy read if you're interested in it, but not one I would read again. Really glad I
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who is a member of some privileged social group
Recommended to Meen by: Nicole Carr (Mille remercies!)
Fairly early in my recovery I began to process my own racism, but I was never able to move very far beyond the discomfort of white guilt until my professor/mentor (Nicole Carr) recommended this book. It's a very simple instruction manual for revisioning our individual selves as social entities, for being able to admit where we have benefitted from a racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist, etc. social system which distributes privilege to some while denying it to others WITHOUT condemning ourselv ...more
Somehow books I need to read have a way of randomly appearing in my life. I found out about Privilege, Power, and Difference from a church visitor and, thanks to the awesome San Francisco Library interlibrary loan service, started reading it as a summer project. While this book is denser and less readable than Tim Wise’s book White Like Me about white privilege, Allan Johnson’s theories provide an excellent foundation for thinking about all types of privilege (the flip side of oppression.) He d ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
"Wouldn't it be tight if everyone was just chill together?" - the author's thesis ...more
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology, politics
An excellent introduction to sociological perspectives on race, gender, and class differences. This won't be anything new if you're familiar with progressive thought, but it's to Johnson's credit that it's so well-organized and thorough for its relatively tiny page count. There is a ton of content here considering, and I'd love to see what Johnson has to say if he ever attempted to write a real exploration of these topics. It's clear almost from the outset that he's a bona-fide expert in these t ...more
T.Kay Browning
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was ok

First,the fact that a book that has so much emphasis on class privilege was going to cost me $100 to get a used copy of an old edition of this small paperback, pay even more for a kindle edition, or have access to a major university’s library, was really frustrating. I read this as required reading for my ordination process and that whole process has a lot to do with why our leadership looks less diverse than our values would insist.

The book itself is fine, as far as I can tell. Nothing extraord
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
[Will add to this over some time]

This is one of the readings for our PLC group. I find the material within to be clearly written and organized, but, initially anyway, all relatively basic. Admittedly, I found myself feeling a bit impatient with it because none of it was new. That said, this is an excellent primer for teaching about privilege, power, and difference, particularly to a skeptical or uninformed audience. Honestly, I think our all-white (except for one) and all-male (except for one) a
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is an excellent introduction to incredibly loaded topics. You likely won't find it groundbreaking if you're familiar with said topics, but you might find yourself with additional ways to articulate why you think what you think or feel what you feel. ...more
Jody Bowie
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
An easy read - helps the beginner think in terms of privilege and oppression in society. Must be read with a willingness to learn. If one reads this and believes there isn't systemic oppression of "others" in our society, those readers will be disappointed. ...more
Jared Lancaster
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wish I could get the President of the United States to sit in a clockwork orange style contraption and force him to read this line by line.
Anna (bibliophiles_bookstagram)
More good info and reminders. Allan Johnson reminds readers often of his status as a white male, and that his privilege is something he needs to be aware of and understand how this privilege also contributes to others’ oppression. It’s about awareness and finding ways to help change the system.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Allan Johnson uses this short book to explain something that's probably not new to anyone who's taken more than an intro class in sociology: what systems of privilege are, how to recognize them, and how to deal with them. I found it incredibly thought-provoking, especially having not read much on these topics yet.

As someone who hasn't studied sociology, I found his descriptions of social norms helpful, simply in articulating the power that social norms have in shaping behavior better than I have
Andrew Shaffer
It's a book on privilege written by a privileged man for a privileged audience.

Johnson is very upfront about his position to the subject he's writing about, yet this position does rob him of some credibility which is only partially made up by his credentials. While he doesn't explicitly states it, this book is fairly obviously written for a middle class, heterosexual, white audience, one that has likely never had to think about the subject matter before. Read in this light, the book does a good
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ever present in the 2nd edition of Privilege, Power, and Difference are the ways that structural inequalities impact individual experiences/thoughts. Johnson explores race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status with language that is easy to understand for those new to the field of work around privilege and oppression in this compact tome. Capitalism's oppressive power & contributions to inequality are also interwoven throughout this book, which ultimately helps to cement Johnson's ar ...more
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
For my internship this summer, we're putting together a Diversity Profile which will look at diversity and inclusion in the Minnesota Historical Society and the other historical sites around Minnesota. This is one of the books that I picked to read for research on this project and it is VERY good. Actually, I'd give it 3.5 stars.

Most of the concepts and information are things that I have already heard about and worked with in I Am, We Are so it was not surprising--just surprising that I would f
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
What I like about this book is that it breaks down my defenses as a white male. It doesn't say you as an indivudual are responsible for privilege but says you have a responsibility to recognize your privilege and work together (not alone) to make the world a more equitable place. In general the book asks lots of questions so the reader can interpret their own emotions and how they're shaped by bigger societal ideas. I agree with some other reviews that the early chapters can be repetitive in a p ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Read the 2017 third edition and I have to say the book really does get into the foundations of privilege. If you know someone who is beginning their journey into privilege, this would be a good book to recommend however if you’re already living the experience and doing the work, it might be a bit redundant. There’s some good reminders and vocab in there (and specific scenarios that could be helpful for workshops) but does take time to read although a short book.
Johnson does a great job picking apart what privilege & power looks like and how it impacts our society in big and little ways. I wish he discussed more through out what we can do to help change the system besides just the last chapter. This book has helped me really start to reexamine my actions and implicit biases.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-justice
Remarkably comprehensive for a clear, concise examination of the dynamics of power and privilege in our society. It provides useful language for talking about power and privilege to those who are reluctant to acknowledge them, and useful advice on how to take on making a difference in dismantling them.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found the book very readable. The author does a thorough job of wrestling with the issues inherent in diversity as a social concern, without preaching a solution. Sometimes I think that's ok, and this is one of those times. ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it liked it
really interesting book given all that is going on in the world. the book was copyrighted in 2006, but 2018 shows things are getting worse in regards to addressing the issues. I would have liked to see ageism addressed more.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-classes
fine, but basic. there’s something to be said about me having to pay $59 for 140 pages about privilege and oppression from a cis het white guy. i also found that his epilogue’s call for civility contradicts what he says earlier about taking a stand, but that’s just my perception.
Lisa Bourbonnais
Feb 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Provides information that everyone should already know given they have any common sense at all.
Holly Wood
So necessary. if anyone asks you to explain what social privilege is, this is the book you put in their hands.
Vari Robinson
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes frustrating because of it being out of date (aka no discussion of people who don't identify on the gender binary, some outdated language, etc.), but overall a good start. ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Johnson's primary goal is to bring the issues of racism, sexism, genderism, etc. to the forefront of the mind so that individuals become of aware of the issues.

This is a good book for someone that wants to take a serious look at the role white privilege has played in the United States. The book discusses how institutionalized racism is in the United States. For many people it will be an uncomfortable read. To take a look at these issues has been an issue in its own right for many years, but if
Holli Keel
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it

"It takes very little to make a difference. Small acts can have radical implications. As Edmund Burke said, if the main requirement for the perpetuation of evil is that good people do nothing, then the choice isn't between all or nothing, but between nothing and something."

This book was written by a white, cis, heterosexual, nondisabled man. And I'm still a little bothered that a guy who is most steeped in privilege was the one writing this book. However, I can't deny that he explains the concep
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was assigned to read this book for graduate school orientation. Having minored in sociology, privilege, power, and difference are subjects I'm interested in and have researched. I understand why this book was assigned and I'm thankful that it will expose others who may have been unaware of the objective truths presented. During winter break with my readings fresh in my mind and while reading the news or comments I'd analyze the power dynamics of the communication or events and scrutinize the s ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This book reads like a long opinion piece and does not come across as being authoritative or convincing. My feeling is that people who already agree with him on the issues of race and privilege might find the book encouraging, but people with opposing viewpoints would probably not be moved. I also got the feeling throughout the book that the author was putting words in the reader's mouth and then refuting them. I found this style somewhat frustrating both because I wasn't thinking what he expect ...more
Jim Reaugh
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
At first glance at the title of this book, I thought it was going to be another of those books: you feel sick & worthless once you get to the end. This couldn't have been further from the truth!

The writing style is engaging & gentle - yet powerful. It was detailed in describing the impact of power & privilege in a way that I understood I am not familiar with sociology studies.

It has motivated me to share with those who have a hard time seeing the lines of power & how they impact all of ou
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Allan G. Johnson is a novelist, nonfiction writer, sociologist, teacher, and public speaker who has spent much of his life trying to understand the human condition, especially as shaped by issues of gender, race, and social class. His nonfiction books have been translated into several languages, and his first novel, The First Thing and the Last, was recognized in 2010 by Publishers Weekly as a not ...more

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“People are tagged with other labels that point to the lowest-status group they belong to, as in "woman doctor" or "black writer," but never "white lawyer" or male senator". Any category that lowers our status relative to others' can be used to mark us; to be privileged is to go through life with the relative ease of being unmarked.” 7 likes
“It is more likely that the paths others have chosen influence the paths I choose. This suggests that the simplest way to help others make different choices is to make them myself, and to do it openly. As I shift the patterns of my own participation in the systemps of privilege, I make it easier for others to do so as well, and harder for them not to. Simply by setting an example - rather than trying to change them - I crate the possibility of their participating in change in their own time and in their own way. In this way I widen the circle of change without provoking the kind of defensiveness that perpetuates paths of least resistance and the oppressive systems they serve.” 7 likes
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