Musings on ‘Power’My own attempts at defintions.These first ones are related to power in a human context:-Short version.The ability to to evoke or provoke a desired response.The imposition of one’s will upon another/others.The ‘energy’ that enables ‘control’.The capacity to change.Force.Longer version.The ability to evoke or provoke a desired response from an individual, social groupor system or in a given situation; such ability vesting, de juré and/or de facto, in aperson and/or position of perceived superiority conferring the authority and/or abilityto command and compel action in compliance and conformity with a given desire ordecision, or in the capacity to exert influence over others to the same effect.Can more science-based precepts concerning power help?An agent of transformation : the liberation of the potential latent in mass whentranslated into the kinetic state we call energy. [i.e. the same substance in anotherform]An agent of multiplication : the means of magnification / amplification of a limitedcapacity by the introduction of some stimulus / catalyst / means [i.e. the simple leverincreases power eg. Archimedes’ – give me a lever long enough and I will move theEarth …..he also would have needed a pretty big fulchrum to be honest !]Notable Phrases‘Knowledge is power’Thoughts…. But ‘knowledge’ is only in the middle of a continuum : data + organisation = information information + analysis & evaluation = knowledge knowledge + utlisation & experience & reflection = learning learning + communication & teaching = the capacty to engage in change the capacty to change + implementation = the evidence of knowledge-based power.Bournemouth University logo/motto : Discere Mutari Est = To Learn is to Change‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’
« This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first BaronActon (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply asLord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men arealmost always bad men."Another English politician with no shortage of names - William Pitt, the Elder, TheEarl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wronglyattributed as the source. He did say something similar, in a speech to the UK House ofLords in 1770: "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"Source : www.phrases.org.ukOrigins of PowerAlvin Tofflers book: Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge ofthe 21st Century, suggests that the origins of power devolve directly from theapplication of these three elements, which I develop a little hereunder for you. 1. Knowledge (not information, note. ... ...Do you know the difference?). What you know and understand well enough to be able to use – and others do not – can be used to advantage. In business, such knowledge and acting upon it can create: First-mover advantage. Examples: Expedia.com / Lastminute.com and low-cost airlines like easyJet who clearly understood far earlier than others the potential of the internet to overcome barriers to entry in business and beat the existing operators. The application of their early knowledge has changed air travel, changed the structure of the airline sector and changed how we choose holidays. The end of the application of knowledge of a means of exerting power is usually change (except when such knowledge and power is expressly used to stifle change – as in repressive regimes). We usually accept and respect the use of knowledge that is gained legitimately – as per the examples above: it is part of evolution and development, surely, socio-culturally, economically..... 2. Wealth. Money is effectively an enabler and a very efficient means of transferring one thing into another. In paid employment, for example, our time is transformed into products and services and the profits that make those with wealth-derived power even more powerful. Money is a very efficient and effective lever/persuader/enabler: a metaphorical carrot (as opposed to stick). We live in a capitalist society where most things are represented as having a monetary value and where one can exchange money for virtually any product or service: it is almost like a kind of magic box: put your money in the box and, Hey Presto! – A car / a washing machine / a restaurant meal. It is normative, but because we can change it into anything we want, its influence upon us can be considerable. (UK Cash for Questions politicians – see You Tube BBC report from 1 minute into the video.) 3. Violence. From the dawn of time violence has provoked fear and an Adrenalin-driven, in-built flight or fight response mechanism – as has the express or implied threat of violence. For all our civilisation, it is still there.
Violence goes to the very root of Abraham Maslows Heirarchy of Needs: it attacks our most fundamental human requirement for meeting our basest physiological needs (food, water etc) and for feeling safe in or environment. It also attacks our higher needs for regognition/ respect and belonging/love right through to what Maslow terms Self-actualisation: being able to indulge ourselves and engage in the realisation of our most deep-seated desires. Violence threatens not just the core of us, but all the basic needs. When we see power being exercised, we might be well advised to stop and consider whether we are seeing wealth, knowledge or violence power in action (or in its most potent and dangerous form the use of all three of them) and the extent to which this power is likely to have direct or indirect impacts upon and implications for the subjects (or subjects) Heirarchy of Needs. OK, if it means I cant self-actualise in some sphere or other for a while I can live with that at least for a while.... but if it means I lose respect of my peers or can no longer belong to the society or culture of which I am part I may feel very threatened and worried. If it goes even deeper and I lose all sense of security.... In civilised modern democracies with welfare states / social security systems, most people have the two base needs as given and the issue is how much further up the pyramid we can go. However, in other situations like 1930s Germany this changed insidiously on a day to day basis for one Jewish University Professor: Victor Klemperer I Shall Bear Witness (1995) who saw his entire life attacked from (Maslows) top-down perspective. Online Book Review/synopsisTypes of power
Nuclear powerNuclear / steam / electric / hydroelectric powerPolitical power / power politicsMilitary powerLegal powerDelegated/devolved power / empowermentThe powers that beThe power behind the throneMathematical powersIntellectual power / force of intellectPower of persuasionTypes of peoplePower broker (Warwick the kingmaker)Possessor of Power of AttorneyThe empoweredThe powerfulThe powerlessGetting Power ?Coming to powerRising / rise to powerGiven power / empowered (Marriott Hotels employee empowerment scheme)Taking powerSeizing powerUsurping powerIn America the president runs for office in Britain a person stands for Parliament(Raymond Seitz: Ex US Ambassador to the Court of St James)Home of PowerPosition of powerPower baseLegitimate power... By the power vested in me....Using power
Exercise of powerKeeping powerHolding powerWielding powerPower of attorneyPower gamesPower playPower dressingPower to your elbow!Power politicsDelegate power / authorityBalance of powerUnder powerPowerfulGradient of power: 1. influence inducement persuasion [at this stage nothing is amiss, it is almost a benign use of power in which the person with power seeks to act upon someones freewill, but the choice/decision rests with the subject of the power] = Carrots 2. coercion (threat) coercion (sanction / enforcement) compliance [here the free choice on the part of the subject is whittled away until compliance is achieved even in the face of objection thereto] = SticksMisusing powerAbuse of powerMisuse of powerCoercive powerLosing power.Resigning powerFalling from powerRemoved from power / Impeachment? (Nixon and almost Clinton) / Disempowered
Definitions Revisited.After all that..... should I change them?Did you do better?My initial definitionsShort version.The ability to be abe to evoke or provoke a desired response.The imposition of one’s will upon another/others.The ‘energy’ that enables ‘control’.The capacity to change.Force.Longer version (amended).The ability to evoke or provoke a desired response from an individual, social groupor system or in a given situation; such ability vesting, de juré and/or de facto, in theuse of position, knowledge, wealth, violence and personal charisma (or a potentcombination of all of these), conferring the ability to command and compel action incompliance and conformity with a given desire or decision, or in the capacity to exertinfluence over others to the same effect.OthersWikiPedia: "Power is a measure of an entitys ability to control its environment,including the behaviour of other entities"