A social bargain is an act of Agency engaged in to defy, redirect, or subvert a Structure’s effort to strip or deny Agency, and reclaim some power on a personal level.
It is a broader adaptation of the concept established by Deniz Kandiyoti in 1988, described specifically towards the bargains made by women in navigating a Patriarchal system and named after such: the Patriarchal Bargain.
Such bargains are not only found within the experience of women within patriarchy, however — Black people have them when dealing with racism, trans people have them when dealing with transphobia and ciscentric social systems, and disabled people have them when dealing with abled bodied systems and structures.
Borrowing from Sociologist Lisa Wade, a patriarchal bargain is “an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact.”
People choose to conform to the oppressive system because they feel that the benefits that they receive by conforming exceed the benefits that would come from challenging or changing the system — and do so on a very personal level, independently, even though they may try to sway others.
This is a personalized form of assimilationism, and is often attacked as a result of it, yet is also recognized as a critical tool for survival, effectively exploiting one’s membership in an oppressed class and exploiting it for one’s personal benefit, without regard to the larger issues facing the collective group one would be presumed to have an affinity with or be a member of.
I will expand this down the road.