PAGE IN PROGRESS What you see here is a page of my hypertext book POWER of meanings // MEANINGS of power. Initially empty, this page will slowly be filled with thoughts, notes, and quotes. One day, I will use them to write a coherent entry, similar to these completed pages. Thank you for your interest and patience!
It would be a truism to say that society is extremely complex. But few might really understand how complex it is. Despite common features that human beings share, each person is unique through the combination of their genetic makeup and life experiences. By the same token, no interactions and relationships are exactly the same. Of course, it would be unhelpful to only focus on differences and underplay similarities. Finding similarities is what allows us to make some conclusions about the way people are, predictions about human behavior, and possibly also ways to change some aspects of society.
However, when these predictions oversimplify the complexity of social relationships, attempts to make things better based on these predictions might fail. I believe that binary thinking about power is one of such very understandable but ultimately unhelpful simplifications made an in attempt to make society a better place for all.
To challenge this binary thinking, I suggest that we should embrace the complexity of human relationships. Because of this complexity, we cannot say with complete certainty that one person or one group of people always has power over another person or group of people. Power is not a stable easily-defined characteristic.
Foucault writes about power: “It is produced from one moment to the next, at every point, or rather in every relation from one point to another. Power is everywhere, not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere.” He then continues: “Power is not something that is acquired, seized or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away. Power is exercised from innumerable points in the interplay of non egalitarian and mobile relations.”
Saying that power is fluid is not the same as saying that it is always equally distributed. We can and should still talk about power inequalities because they are real. But the best was to see them in a way undiluted by the complexity of society would be to focus on what I call snapshot power.
Power relationships observed over time and space and extremely complex. Every person is influenced by many people and influences many people in return, and because this influence is changing over time. Individual abilities also change over time and sometimes as a result of interactions between people. If we try to trace all of these connections, we will be lost. The solution is to focus on one specific relationship (literally, two individuals) in one specific point in time. We zoom in and take a snapshot of this relationship, and the we can see what happens with power in this very specific moment and place. On the snapshot level, we can investigate what I call vector power to answer the question who influences whom at each specific moment in time. Who has power over whom in this frame?
power and powerlessness are always connected, but the combination differs from individual to individual and even from action to action
however, in each specific case we should be able to has more individual power and who has less
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