What role does power play in our daily lives?
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This depends to a great degree on how expansively you define power.
For example, if you define power the way John Gaventa does, power has a huge impact on our lives. If you look at it in that way, the elites of society use their power every day to get us to buy into the the ideologies that justify their power. They use this face of power, then, to trick us so that we do not even realize that power is being exerted on us. By that definition, for example, power affects us every time we are told that the US is a meritocracy whether we are told that explicitly or implicitly.
If we see power in a more limited way, it is still with us every day. Weber talks about power (among other ways) as the elite's ability to manipulate things so that they have the best life chances. We can see that every day in our own lives. If we are of middle to upper-middle class status, we know that our kids go to better schools than poor people's kids. At the same time, we know that their schools are not as good as the schools of the truly wealthy. This, too, is an example of power playing a role in our daily lives.
Power, then, affects us every day in ways that we may or may not even perceive.
When you state "power" to what do you mean? Do you mean the "power" found as a result of energy? Do you mean "power" as in political, economic, military? Either way when one thinks about it, they are in essence one in the same. Thousands of years ago, people maintained power, as a result of who controlled the water supply. Even the control of salt as we find in the Punic Wars. Today we see that power is maintained by way of military might, political might, and at the core is the control of power/energy sources.
From a smaller realm, we see power plays all day long at school. There is at the root of all society power plays. There are those who believe that without power plays, and shifting of power, there would be little need for societal change, and growth.
All political relationships are obviously based on power to some degree, even if that power is exercised by the consent of the people on whom it is projected. This, as another poster has said, is almost a Weberian definition of power, where certain types of power, particularly the power of coercion, are reserved to the state. Other thinkers like Michel Foucault have argued that knowledge is an instrument of power, and that our understandings of what constitutes mental illness or aberrant behavior are actually power discourses, ways for small groups of people to control larger ones. In other words, classifying people in one way or another, which we do all the time, is a way to exercise power over them. Another example of a power relationship in our lives relates to gender roles, which empower certain groups of people, often males, over others.
That depends a great deal on the type of power you are referring to. I see many have jumped to political power. This can be particularly true in democratic countries. But, there are many types of power. The amount of power you hold in your position or career can play a daily role in your life. A manager might be under stress because of his power. On the flip side, a subordinate might be under stress because of his lack of power. Money can be another form of power depending on how you use it. A lack of money can also hold a power over the people who need it. Power does play a key role in daily life, but it really depends on what type of power as to how much of a role it has.
Let's look at economic power. The US is an economic power, current recession and budget difficulties notwithstanding, and the results of this power affects our daily lives. Gasoline is cheaper than most other countries, food is readily available, our country is safe and secure from war and major diseases and disasters. Contrast this with, say, Somalia, or Thailand, which are countries with little economic power, and peoples daily lives are much more challenging.
I agree that with the other posters regarding the definition of power to which you are referring.
For me, personally, I look at the daily power struggle a teacher faces. Students, for the most part, enjoy pushing teachers' buttons. Sometimes this is to get a laugh and sometimes it is to try to break the teacher. Regardless, power, in this circumstance, is one teachers must face every day.
There is also internal power--power one needs to face the challenges of every day. This power is very influential over the life of a person. Sometimes a person does not possess enough power to face a day and they become overburdened. Other times, a person has an overabundance of power and can manage things just fine.
Various psychologists, sociologists, and ethologists (students of animal behavior) argue that asserting, establishing, and maintaining one's place in various hierarchies is enormously important, both for animals and for humans. This insight seems relevant to a variety of contexts, including the family, the workplace, and even school (as number 7's comment unfortunately reminds us). Number 7's comment suggests the importance of power relations among everyday people in everyday life.
Power is everywhere. It really depends on how your define it. In light of this, I like how Pierre Bourdieu looks at power. He looks at how elites in society use power for their own gain by tweaking culture to favor them. By doing it this way, those without power subject themselves in a sense, because they do not make use of the power that the elites have created. Bourdieu calls this symbolic violence. Social theory has something similar. It is called ideology.
I believe that power might be defined differently according to whom possesses it. For example there is power of the individual, power of small groups, power of cities, power of states, and power of nations.
For the individual, power might involve financial status, education, job or position, and skills and abilities.
For a small group, power might be represented by group size and membership, finances, political advocacy, and so forth.
For a city, power might be associated with city size, finances, job markets and scale of attractiveness.
For states, power as associations similar to those of cities.
For nations, power may depend on form of government, natural resources and health of its economy.
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