I wish there was a discipline that focused solely on power. Political science only covers one slice of the use of power. The mechanics of government and the people employed to push and pull all the levers are well covered in academia. I’d like people to cover the power plays at a more local level, how they hold people back from living their best lives, and what can be done about it.
Fathers and Sons. August Wilson wrote one of his recognized plays, Fences while living in St. Paul Minnesota in 1985. A pivotal action in the narrative occurs when the father interrupts his son’s chance at a football scholarship by pulling his son from the high school team. The elder claims he is protecting his son from the racism he endured. The son feels otherwise. No matter the motivation, a parent has the power to restrain their child’s success. In this story, the son finds opportunity in the armed forces and his ambitions are rewarded with a secure career.
Physical Leverage. A well-known form of intimidation via physical force resides in domestic relationships. There are already social service support systems in place to help women (in particular) escape from an abusive partner. Yet they don’t. Perhaps, if they had understood the power structure earlier, it would make a difference. Fear of physical abuse is also used by neighborhood bullies to deter being ratted out. From the outside the answer in both cases might seem clear: turn the bums in. Yet these power players are part of their families, their networks, their lives. The solution is to level the field through an understanding of how to neutralize their power.
Socialites. The term socialites may feel as dated as old lace, but there are people skilled at managing who gets invited (or not) to social events. Many valuable benefits evolved from connections made during social gatherings. Those who control who’s in, and who’s not, wield a particular type of power.
The machinations of elected officials have far less impact on people’s lives than those closely connected to them. By understanding power, and how it’s used, or abused, people could navigate that line of staying with their pack while living fuller lives.