Powerarchy Understanding the Psychology of Oppression for Social Transformation

In this thought-provoking book, Melanie Joy examines the metasystem, or overarching system, that informs all systems of oppression—such racism, sexism, and carnism—and the psychology that enables it.

About the Book

In this timely and illuminating work, Melanie Joy identifies the common psychology that drives all oppressive systems, such as racism, sexism, and carnism, and that also enables abusive interpersonal dynamics. This psychology stems from a widespread, invisible belief system Joy calls “powerarchy.” Powerarchy is based on the belief in a hierarchy of moral worth—that some individuals or groups are more worthy of moral consideration than others—and it is structured to maintain unjust power imbalances among social groups and between individuals.

Joy examines the key psychological and social mechanisms that maintain the system, and also proposes ways to work toward transformation. The book provides powerful new insights for those working to end oppression and abuse and offers tools to help them raise awareness, reduce infighting, and build more unified and resilient movements.

For more information and to watch a video about powerarchy, visit powerarchy.org.

What People Are Saying

Dr. Melanie Joy is one of the most important theorists of how we rationalize cruelty. Here, she shows the way oppressive ideologies build upon one another by desensitizing us to the worth of other thinking, feeling beings. And more optimistically, she shows how we can rediscover sensitivity and help others rediscover it as well.”

Ezra Klein, Editor-at-Large, Vox, and host of The Ezra Klein Show

Powerarchy has the potential to revolutionize how we think about oppression and to empower our movements for social justice, animal rights, and environmental sustainability.”

Moby, musician, author, and activist

In Powerarchy, Melanie Joy—known for her theory that helped empower the animal rights movement—brings her analysis to a new level. She provides a powerful, new unifying theory to help mobilize and unite advocates working for justice for animals, humans, and the environment alike.”

Leah Garcés, President, Mercy for Animals

Powerarchy is a thought-provoking book that sheds light on the way we think about oppression and social justice.”

Marianne Williamson, speaker, activist, and author of four #1 New York Times bestselling books

In this time of political polarization and vitriol, Powerarchy offers a way forward. Melanie Joy presents a brilliant and riveting analy- sis of why people support oppressive systems and abusive behaviors and of what we can do to change this.”

Lisa Bloom, civil rights attorney and author of Suspicion Nation