Power, and how it is used for facilitating social change

 

As the title suggest this will be a contribution to the following statement “when it comes to understanding power and movements for change, it’s important to think of power not only in terms of the powerful forces that movements are trying to disrupt or oppose or overthrow but also in terms of the power that individuals (like Ron Finley) and groups take for themselves (claim or mobilise) in order to create alternatives”. It will start by giving examples of the kind of power available to groups and individuals and how they can harness it. The paper will then move on to leadership amongst movements and how leadership is important and how they help make agency possible through expressions of power. The paper will then give examples how groups claim power for themselves and challenge ‘power over’. Finally to conclude the paper will show how important power is for movements of change and how we need to not only think of power “as being  defined only in negative terms, and as a form of domination, but it can also be a positive force for individual and collective capacity to act for change”. Lisa VeneKlasen and Valeries Miller in A New Weave of Power (2002, page 55)

 

Examples of power

There are four expressions of power, this is a brief explanation

Power Over

This is the most common expression of power, it if often seen as only as win or lose and nothing else. It has many negative associations for people, such as repression, force, coercion, discrimination, corruption, and abuse. With ‘power over’ it means taking it from someone, dominating and preventing other from obtaining it. This is not only seen being used by ‘powerful groups’ but ‘powerless groups’ also use this form of power’. Marginalized groups often, when they gain power imitate those who once dominated them by their use of ‘power over’

Power With

This is where people find common ground and work together to make change. ‘Power with’ bridges across different interests to transform or reduce social conflict and promote equitable relations.

Power To

‘Power to’ highlights the potential of every person. It makes it possible for joint action in conjunction with ‘power with’

Power within

‘Power within’ has to do with a person’s sense of hope, their sense worth and that they themselves can actually make a difference.

Powercube.net, expressions of power (http://www.powercube.net/other-forms-of-power/expressions-of-power/)

Leadership amongst movement for change

Leadership is important for social movements in a myriad of ways. It can be said that “social movement leaders mobilize the emotions that make agency possible”(Ganz,Leading change,Harvard Press 2010).As shown above through forms of power, relationships are paramount in social movements. Leadership can be seen as a key instrument to forming these relationships. This does not mean that there is one person ‘in charge’ or who takes ‘control’ but is rather a person who organizes “by identifying, recruiting and developing leadership on all levels. This leadership forges a primary source of social movement power.” (Ganz,Leading change,Harvard Press 2010).

How Groups claim power for themselves and challenge ‘power over’

It is possible to challenge ‘power over’ by using ‘power to’, ‘power with’ and ‘power within’. It is entirely possible for any group or movement to challenge the ‘powers that be’ and ‘power over’. We have seen examples throughout history and even now we see it on a daily basis. The key word here is challenge, not that people are always successful, but ‘power over’ is in fact challenged. An example is the ‘Arab Spring ‘These were a series of protest that spread throughout the Middle-East mostly aimed at the ageing Arab dictatorships amongst a variety of other social issues. These countries did not decide to protest together at the same time but rather it was an incendiary effect due to their homogeneous ideals. Some deemed these protest a failure, this is due to the fact that they did not overthrow the numerous authoritarian regimes that governed them. They truly utilized ‘power to’ and ‘power within’ by believing it was possible for social change in the Middle East. They also used ‘power with’ by following and inspiring each other in similar ways.

Rather I believe they were a catalyst for change in a different sense. It is difficult to over throw decades of corrupt rule. They have slowly paved the way for more elected officials and more transparent governing powers however. The Arab spring also inspired other movements such as the Occupy movement. This movement started in 2011 also, starting to challenge mainly the inequalities faced by the majority of Americans. They have taken the trademark “We are the 99%”(Occupy.net,20110, this is to reflect the fact that they represent the economic inequality faced by 99% of the American people. Since then it has taken hold and spread to every continent of the world .Not unlike the French revolution in the 18th century, where similarly there was economic inequality as the “top” tier of society paid no taxes at all. It ended with the ’99%’ creating their own constitution.

 

It’’s important to take note of some important movements happening in the world right now. Such as the Dakota pipeline protests also known as (and hashtagged) the NoDAPL movement. This is a movement that has attracted huge amounts of support (not enough from mainstream media) and has been tagged and shared worldwide. I think this is a great example of how movements are able to grow and flourish in the digital age. Even if they are not shown or even represented in any forms by some major news stations, they can still receive tremendous amounts of backing. This truly shows how media is an imperative tool in the use of any successful movement now and empowers all to make change.

 

To conclude, this paper has shown how power has changed over time. It is possible now more than ever to challenge ‘power over’ thanks to the use of social media and other platforms that were not available before. Social movements are now able to help each other on a global scale and more importantly believe that they can in fact implement social change.

 

 

Social movements are purposeful, organized groups striving to work toward a common goal. These groups might be attempting to create change (Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring), to resist change (anti-globalization movement), or to provide a political voice to those otherwise disenfranchised (civil rights movements). Social movements create social change.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s