15 April 2007

Force vs. Power

The less power a person feels he has, the more likely he is to use force. This seems to me a constant within communities and across time.

Kids in ghettoes who feel like they have no options, no power to actually create a life that looks desirable are more likely to engage in violence, to use force. Primitive cultures that have little power to overcome the elements are more likely to engage in war. In some earlier cultures, men had a 60% chance of dying in warfare. Communities with less developed economies are more violent places.

We see this to a far lesser extent with frustrated managers. Lacking the power to achieve particular objectives, they resort to threats.

There is, of course, more to violence than just this variable. Cultural momentum, genetic tendency, greed, and anger all contribute to violence. But the variable that seems to me most defining is this matter of power. As people become more able to effect the changes they want, to live the life they value, they are less inclined to use force.


David said...

There's a disconnect in your blog writing today. Is it "the LESS power a person feels he/she has the more likely to use force?"

We should hand out copies of "The Secret" but maybe people who have little are powerless to understand it.

Life Hiker said...

You define "power" as the ability to effect the changes you want without the use of force. "Power" and "force" are two very different things. I agree. "Force" gets used when people don't feel they have what it takes to achieve their objectives any other way.

In the modern world, governments strive to exercise power by winning public support in their own countries and the agreement of leadership groups in other countries. This is done by providing information that shows their policy goals are consistent with objectives of the majority of citizens or with other governments.

The Bush administration commonly resorts to force (e.g., "I will attack") and threats (e.g., "I will veto")when it realizes it has insufficient power to achieve its policy goals by providing information. These actions are indicative of weakness, not strength, a fact that the president doesn't seem to comprehend.

Norman said...

If we define "power" for leaders (or managers) as the ability to get things done through others, we are then faced with the question of how best to do that.

Dave said...

I'm a little confused by your terms. The title of the post uses force and power; but, the body deals with violence and you make the point that people at the bottom end of a society resort to violence.

It seems to me that violence is the last resort that they take, but that it isn't much different that the economic, psychogical and emotional power or force that those at the top, or at least closer to the top, of the ladder use to try to get their way.

Anonymous said...

As Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, "If you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose."

That explains the motivations behind suicide bombers, but not the motivations of Bush/Cheney. In their cases, they had lots but wanted even more.

That's harder to write a song about.

Ron Davison said...

Sorry about the confusion. I guess violence is an extreme form of force in my mind.

I can't even begin to imagine the genre of music that would work for George and the gang.