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Standpoint Theory

Updated on February 10, 2012

Standpoint Theory

“Members in groups that have power have a vested interest in preserving their place in hierarchy, so their views of social life may be more distorted than the views of persons who are disadvantaged by existing power relationships… To survive, subjugated people must understand people with power, but the reverse is not true. When members of devalued groups have a critical awareness of their positions, they earn a standpoint that may allow them to see the world with less bias.” (Wood., p56)

Now, a case for Christianity is not what this reaction paper is seeking to accomplish, but an understanding come from a relationship with Christ could possibly help develop a sincere standpoint, as from a subjugated people. From the Standpoint Theory comes the idea that a social standing will shape and mold the worldview or perspective. The book emphasizes that one is not born with a perspective, nor is a person automatically programmed with a standpoint according to their ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. But a person might have a disposition towards a viewpoint according to these factors and then the social class they are brought up in.

Learning this, the book also continues to describe how devalued, or subjugated people, tend to have a better grasp of reality (funny, since it is merely a viewpoint and who can say who has a better grasp of reality from a viewpoint if there is not a consorted or agreed concept of reality outside of viewpoints) because they not only understand perspective from their standpoint, but must be able to adapt and attempt to understand the viewpoint of their superiors if they are to find more success. This is where it seems if a person is “critically aware” of their position; certain humility can be developed that allows for even greater success amongst many positions since humility can be a sought after and amiable trait. (As opposed to pride, or haughtiness that might be developed from living in a social class that views others as subordinates.)

A relationship with Christ is one that teaches this aspect of humility that comes from places others, or regarding others as superior. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) It is with this attitude that one can gain a standpoint as though one had been a devalued people all their lives, without necessarily having been.

Chuck Colson, aka the Hatchet Man, was a man who opponents feared in the political world because of his tough attitudes and bullheaded approach. He was on a presidential staff and essentially social elite. He later went to prison for and returned a “born-again” Christian. Understanding this man’s way of life and outlook before and after can be paralleled to observing the life of someone from the upper-class to one of lower-class. These two people would view the world in a similar way an elite upper-class person turned Christian would, taking a stance of superiority to one of humility.

Certainly it is not completely true, as in a person who has most every material benefit there can be will not understand some of the physical characteristics of what it is to be subjugated. But Standpoint Theory can have the material aspects removed to even show it is somewhat a state of mind, one of humility, either learned or blessed.


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