Kyriarchy ("rule by a lord"; from the Greek κύριος/kyrios "lord or master" and αρχή/arche "authority, leadership") is a social system or set of connecting social systems built around domination, oppression, and submission. The word itself is a neologism coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza to describe interconnected, interacting, and self-extending systems of domination and submission, in which a single individual might be oppressed in some relationships and privileged in others. It is an intersectional extension of the idea of patriarchy beyond gender. Kyriarchy encompasses sexism, racism, economic injustice, and other forms of dominating hierarchy in which the subordination of one person or group to another is internalized and institutionalized.
Schüssler Fiorenza (2009) describes interdependent "stratifications of gender, race, class, religion, heterosexualism, and age" as structural positions assigned at birth. She suggests that people inhabit several positions, and that positions with privilege become nodal points through which other positions are experienced. For example, in a context where gender is the primary privileged position (e.g., patriarchy), gender becomes the nodal point through which sexuality, race, and class are experienced. In a context where class is the primary privileged position (i.e., classism), gender and race are experienced through class dynamics.
Schüssler Fiorenza writes about the interaction between kyriarchy and critical theories as such:
[T]he universalist kyriocentric rhetoric of Euro-American elite men does not simply reinforce the dominance of the male sex, but it legitimates the imperial "White Father" or, in black idiom, the enslaving "Boss-Man" as the universal subject. By implication, any critical theory — be it critical race, feminist, liberationist, or Marxist theory — that articulates gender, class, or race difference as a primary and originary difference masks the complex interstructuring of kyriarchal dominations inscribed in the subject positions of individual wo/men and in the status positions of dominance and subordination between wo/men. It also masks the participation of white elite wo/men, or better "ladies," and of Christian religion in kyriarchal oppression, insofar as both have served as civilizing colonialist conduits of kyriarchal knowledges, values, and culture.
Tēraudkalns (2003) suggests that these structures of oppression are self-sustained by internalized oppression; those with relative power tend to remain in power, while those without tend to remain disenfranchised.
In essence, all peoples are in some form or another 'oppressors' to some group of people while simultaneously being oppressed by some other group of people. In an effort to end their oppression, they increase the oppression they inflict, thus creating a vicious circle of sorts.
The term was coined by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in 1992 when she published her book But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation It is derived from the Greek words κύριος or kyrios (lord or master) and ἄρχω or archō (to lead, rule, govern).