Power – NOTE

When searching for the definition of power, I was surprised to come across wikipeda’s page. Why? because there is a great difference between the essence of power and what you do with it.

Using power to control others is only one interpretation of power and it is an abuse of power. When taken one step further, this can lead to coercion which is domination by creating fear.

Power and abuse of power are two very different things! You can have power without abusing it. Throughout history, power has been associated with political leaders, armies and oppression.

This is why, nobody says “I love power”. They would be labeled as some form of political freak trying to own a land and its people. Huge misunderstanding here.

Power has many forms and political abuse of power is only one of them. The idea that power corrupts is simply wrong! It is not true! Power does not corrupt. You can grow in power and wisdom at the same time. You can develop an inner sense of ethics and profound respect for life and never even be tempted to abuse your power.

Personal power is associated with personal growth. You can use your power to create, preserve, control what is yours without ever going into any form of abuse or oppression.

Power is an energy you can master. You can develop the skills to use it effectively. It is an energy source and the way you channel it in your existence will be directed by your skills and goals.

Power is like fire. You can use to create, renew, destroy what you no longer need. The moment you befriend with that energy you multiply your chances of life satisfaction.

Here are some of the key power areas. This is only my vision or what I recognize as sources and expressions of power in and around me:

If I had to define personal power, I would say that it is any form of power which is not related with organizations and politics.

Here are the key areas I recognize for personal power:

More on personal power

The idea is not to start a polemic about this topic; it is to offer alternatives to common beliefs about power. This is a coaching website which is focused on human empowerment.

I give naturally much more weight and importance to the idea of personal power. That’s the main area I focus on within these pages.

Many people will reject the idea of power simply because they are afraid of it or don’t know how to use it. Power is like fire. It is an incredible source of energy which can be used to reach your goals.

Gaining power goes together with gaining the skills to use it effectively.


Power

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

(note from vitalcoaching.com: Here is the definition from Wikipeda. I print it here simply to show the contrast with the definitions and ideas written above on this page. Again the idea is not to start a polemic. It is simply to offer a wide range of options and ideas so that you can choose for yourself and create your own opinion)

Sociologists usually define power as the ability to impose one’s will on others, even if those others resist in some way. The imposition need not involve coercion (force or threat of force). Thus “power” in the sociological sense stands distinct from both physical power and political power. In some ways it more closely resembles what everyday English-speakers call “influence”.

More generally, one could define “power” as the real or perceived ability or potential to bring about significant change, usually in people’s lives, through the actions of oneself or of others.

The exercise of power seems endemic to humans as social and gregarious beings.

Table of contents

Analysis and operation of power

Power manifests itself in a relational manner: one cannot meaningfully say (pace advocates of empowerment) that a particular social actor “has power” without also specifying the other parties to the social relationship.

Power almost always operates reciprocally, but usually not equally reciprocally. To control others, one must have control over things that they desire or need, but one can rarely exercise that control without a measure of reverse control – larger, smaller or equal – also existing. For example, an employer usually wields considerable power over his workers because he has control over wages, working conditions, hiring and firing. The workers, however, hold some reciprocal power: they may leave, work more or less diligently, group together to form a union, and so on.

Because power operates both relationally and reciprocally, sociologists speak of the balance of power between parties to a relationship: all parties to all relationships have some power: the sociological examination of power concerns itself with discovering and describing the relative strengths: equal or unequal, stable or subject to periodic change. Sociologists usually analyse relationships in which the parties have relatively equal or nearly equal power in terms ofconstraint rather than of power.

Even in structuralist social theory, power appears as a process, an aspect to an ongoing social relationship, not as a fixed part of social structure.

One can sometimes distinguish primary power: the direct and personal use of force for coercion; and secondary power, which may involve the threat of force or social constraint, most likely involving third-party exercisers of delegated power.

Types and sources of power

Power may be held through:

  • Delegated authority (for example in the democratic process)
  • Personal or group charisma
  • Ascribed power (acting on perceived or assumed abilities, whether these bear testing or not)
  • Ability or skills (the power of medicine to bring about health)
  • Knowledge (granted or withheld, shared or kept secret)
  • Money (financial influence, control of labour, ownership controll etc)
  • Force (violence, military might, coercion).
  • Moral suasion
  • Application of non-violence
  • Operation of group dynamics
  • Influence of tradition (compare ascribed power)

Theories of power

The thought of Friedrich Nietzsche underlies much 20th century analysis of power. Nietzsche disseminated ideas on the “will to power,” which he saw as the domination of other humans as much as the exercise of control over one’s environment.

Some schools of psychology, notably that associated with Alfred Adler, place power dynamics at the core of their theory (where orthodox Freudians might place sexuality).

Marxism

In the Marxist tradition, Antonio Gramsci elaborated the role of cultural hegemony in ideology as a means of bolstering the power of capitalism and of the nation-state. Gramsci saw power as something exercised in a direct, overt manner, and the power of the bourgeois as keeping the proletariat in their place.

Feminism

Feminist analysis of the patriarchy often concentrates on issues of power: note the “Rape Mantra“: Rape is about power, not sex.

Some feminists distinguish “power-over” (influence on other people) from “power-to” (ability to perform).

Foucault

One of the broader modern views of the importance of power in human activity comes from the work of Michel Foucault.

Foucault’s work analyse the link between power and knowledge. He outlines a form of covert power that works through people rather than only on them. Foucault outlined belief systems that gain momentum the more people accept a particular view as common knowledge. Such belief systems define their figures of authority, such as medical doctors or priests in a church. Within such a belief system – or discourse – ideas crystallise as to what is right and what is wrong, what is normal and what is deviant. Within a particular belief system certain views, thoughts or actions become unthinkable. “This is so” becomes a particular way to see the world, a particular way to live has become normalized. This subtle form of power lacks rigidity, and other discourses can contest it. Indeed, power itself lacks any concrete form, occurring as a locus of struggle. Resistance defines power.

Deconstruction often works to reveal hidden power structures and relationships.

Unmarked Categories

The idea of unmarked categories originated in feminism. The theory analyses the culture of the powerful. The powerful comprise those people in society with easy access to resources, those who can exercise power without considering their actions. For the powerful, their culture seems obvious; for the powerless, on the other hand, it remains out of reach, Γ©lite and expensive.

The unmarked category can form the identifying mark of the powerful. The unmarked category becomes the standard against which to measure everything else. The international address structure of the Internet provides a good example: US addresses (.com; .edu; .gov) appear unmarked.

One can often overlook unmarked categories. Whiteness forms an unmarked category not commonly visible to the powerful, as they often fall within this category. The unmarked category becomes the norm, with the other categories relegated to deviant status. Social groups can apply this view of power to race, gender, and disability without modification: the able body is the neutral body; the man is the normal status.

Representation/Counterpower

Gilles Deleuze, a French theorist, compared voting for political representation with being taken hostage. A representational government assumes that people can be divided into categories with distinct shared interests. The representative is regarded as embodying the interests of the group. Many social movements have been successful in gaining access to governments: the working class, women, young people and ethnic minorities are part of the government in many nation-states. However, there is no government where the government represents the population along the characteristics of the categories.

The problem of finding suitable representatives relates to an individual’s membership of different categories at the same time. The only truly representative government for a population is the population itself. These ideas have become popular in social movements for global justice. The logic of government open to all underpins the social forums (such as the World Social Forum) that have developed in contradistinction to the forums of the powerful. These alternative forms are sometimes called counter-power.

Participation/Liberation

This view appears in many projects of social change, but its founder Paulo Freire is largely unknown. Freire assumes that people carry archives of knowledge within them. In particular he rejects the idea that people remain ignorant unless they have learned to communicate using the culture of the powerful. The person is seen as part of a culture circle with its own view of reality, based on the circumstances of everyday living.

Dialogue can bring about social change. Such dialogue directly opposes the monologue of the culture of the powerful. Dialogue expands the understanding of the world rather than teaching a correct understanding. The process of social change starts with action, on which the group then reflects. Commonly, more action of some kind then results…

See also: