Is Our Culture of Empathy Perpetuating Inequality?

Feeling Others’ Pain Lets Us Ignore the Power Structures That Really Divide Us

We desperately need more empathy. At least, that’s what we are told—in political rhetoric, in bestselling popular science books, in international development discourse, in feminist and anti-racist activism. Among current political antagonisms, especially the rise of Trumpism, many are worried about the deleterious effects of “empathy erosion.”

Empathy has been touted as a necessary quality in leadership, the solution to a wide range of social ills and a central component of social justice. If we see from another’s perspective, imaginatively experiencing her or his thoughts, feelings or predicaments, we will …