How is power wielded in the social world?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The nature of this question is wide open and so I am going to take a different approach on answering it.  I honestly believe that the politics of exclusion and manipulation are a significant part as to how power is wielded in the social world.  I tend to believe that the social construction of groupings has much to do with individuals who possess the ability to seize the center of such constructions and wield power from within it externally.  For example, in high school terms, this figure is called "the queen bee," a driving force behind a particular subculture of people who is able to determine "insider" and "outsider" status.  In wielding power in this manner, the "queen bee" gains power from being able to demonstrate it against others who have offended her and benevolently grant it to people who have pleased her.  Social interaction is seen as a means to an end, in which power is the ultimate and intrinsic reward.  Consider Abigail Williams from Arthur Miller's The Crucibleas a part of this construction. While the "queen bee" subculture might be a slight exaggeration, I do think that the fundamental premise of power being wielded through the ability to establish "insider" and "outsider" status helps to create individuals with power and develop individuals who lack it.  This is a rather dour view of how power is wielded in the social setting.

If we sought a more positive construction of power, it would come from the strength of pure solidarity with other people.  The film, Mean Girls, not only deals with the "Queen Bee" element of social construction, but also clearly establishes the idea that power can be wielded in a socially transformative and connective way in which individuals recognizes their strength lies in trusting and honoring one another or, at the very least, understands the need to maintain professionalism and courtesy towards one another.  In this mode, power is seen as being wielded in a manner that creates community as opposed to destroying it.

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