A Treatise on Power – Part I

I have recently been looking into power relationships and have put together a multiple-part treatise on the subject. What follows is part one and will be accompanied by other installments in the near future.

A Treatise on Power:

I. The Relationship between the Powered and the Powerless

What is the relationship between individuals and entities that hold power and those who do not? Colloquial understanding of this relationship says that the powered simply hold agency over the powerless, either through violence or some other form of coercion. On the other hand, progressive intellectualism believes that the relationship is partially a construct, where abstract concepts such as ‘ownership’ and ‘control’ are granted to the powerful by the powerless. Although both of these views are in their own way correct, the details behind this relationship deserve exploration. In what follows, I will attempt to construct a clearer view of this relationship, which I call the Synergism of Power.

With the Synergism of Power I use the term synergism not in the sense of mutual benefit, but in the sense of mutual connectedness. Take for example wealth production. In situations where the powered gain their wealth via the acquisition of material goods directly from the powerless (in terms of land possession and/or physical work), a ‘conveyor belt’ is formed. As with progressive intellectualism, the core of this aspect of power synergism is the idea that power is ostensibly granted to the powered by the powerless. That is to say, while the powered benefit from inflows on the conveyor belt, the powerless can effectively abate the agency of the controlling group by either suspending input of work or forming a resistance to occupation.

To be sure, the degree of this enervation is determined by the type of relationship between the powered and the powerless (or class of power synergism). For instance, as the free labor of African slaves had the affect of greatly aggrandizing the United States (both structurally and economically), an absolute revolution by the slaves (as in Haiti in 1804) would have had a catastrophic affect on this aggrandizement. Taking a look at a different class of power synergism, the input by Palestinian citizens to the Israeli economic system is by no means comparable to the free labor conveyor belt created by the African slaves of America. This is so because a total withdrawal from the Israeli economy by the Palestinian workforce would not cause catastrophic harm (although their active resistance to occupation has other impacts).

The bottom line is that the expansive gamut of situations between the powered and the powerless have an equally disparate set of power relationships. Without falling into a historicist dilemma, teasing out repetitions in the structures of past power synergisms could wield solid links between the push and pull of the powered and the powerless. In terms of a sociological law, this link may not immediately yield precise, quantifiable variables, but in the least, could provide useful comparisons.

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