What is power?
I constantly hear from my friends about power. Many of them are involved in social justice movements and projects that aim to "empower" people. This goal implies that power is a positive thing. It implies that power is desirable.
Yet, I have also heard people talk of power as a negative concept. This is present in discussions of power-hungry politicians and ultra-powerful corporations.
The following are some questions I have about power. Hopefully, in my search for answers, I will find some definition of power. Perhaps I will find nothing, and I will come to find out that power escapes definition.
- Why is there such a divide in the feelings the word power evokes? Why does this word have both negative, and positive connotations?
- Who desires power and why?
- Does one's perception of power depend on the amount of power one has? This question is interesting. The answer seems dependent on the definition of power, yet it is also promising in that it can illuminate why power has differen meanings for different people.
- Are the negative and positive connotations power properties of power itself, or the distribution of power? It seems that the amount of power a person has is not equal across all people. This is also related to the previous question.
- How does the amount of power someone has influence their life?
- What are symptoms of having power?
- What are symptoms of not having power?
- Can power be defined without looking at the way we interact with each other? Alternatively, is power a social construct? Is it a result of the ways in which we interact with each other?
Power in a series of sentences
"All power to all the people."
"We are powerless against death."
What do these imply about the definition of power? What do they imply about the perception of power?
Places to look for answers
- Examine definitions of power in different contexts. For instance, in physics, power has an unambiguous meaning.
- Struggles for power. Black power movement, gay and lesbian rights, women's rights, Chicano movement, labor organizations.
- Government systems. These are codified distributions of power. In most government systems, certain individuals are said to have power over others. Why is this acceptable, or even desirable? What benefit does constraining power have for a society?
I believe power is the ability to determine the course of life for yourself. Power is self-determination.