Social Power Can Be Hurtful. Has Anyone Not Been Hurt By Its Use?

A single mother told me she would teach her son that power is evil.

Her manner told me someone had hurt her, so I did not ask what kind of power she would use to produce that result.

The shortest dictionary definition I’ve seen: power is the ability to produce a result.

People can use reward or punishment to produce results. They can use knowledge or charisma, Or they can get consent.

Why this discussion?

Theism, and what theists are using to impose their practices on us. They are not seeking consent.

Those who are experiencing the end of the “white xianity” they’ve known will increase their use of the other forms of power.

Some of us need to rebel. Others of us can respond more calmly. To win we will need the energy of those who are rebelling and the planning of those who are calm.

Your thoughts?

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A sword may strike friend or foe; the difference depends on the one wielding it.
-- me, A Garland for the Master, Chapter 7

Who is wielding the power?  What is their intent, are they conscious of potential repercussions and prepared to deal with them?

Loren, you appear to be ignoring “Violence arises from powerlessness.”

I saw it attributed to Seneca.

Tell it to Hitler ... or Mao ... or anyone of hundreds of those who decided they wanted something that by right wasn't theirs and proceeded to take it anyway.  They were a lot of things, but powerless wasn't one of 'em.

Loren, powerless was one of the things Hitler and Mao were. They needed the power of others, of their militaries, to take what wasn’t theirs.

Without their militaries, they were weak.

Hitler proved it. His military defeated, he killed himself.

As to the power of Hitler and Mao, they were charismatic leaders, tapping into the despair and fears of society, getting in front of the crowd and leading.

During the 1910s Germany invaded France, Belgium, and a list of other countries. They looted and destroyed mines and means of production. WW I spelled defeat of Germany, and invaded countries made demands of reparation for destroyed ways to produce. 

After WW I, In the 1920s, Germany floundered in economic and political ruin. People were out of work, hyperinflation occurred when the German government printed money to pay reparations. Too much money chasing too few products.

I wonder what happens to those who don't have wheel barrels of money to shop for bread, health care, education, and retirement? The society that produces all of the commodities needed for a culture to survive was available to those who exploited workers and benefited from those willing and able to steal wages from those who create goods and service. Taking money from those who labor to build vast fortunes is how the family income gap occurs. 

"This tiny picture of an elderly couple in front of a bank with a wheelbarrow is all over the internet as being from the Weimar Republic, too. It’s not shopping, but obviously, they were having to cart large sums of money around town–at least to the bank."

~Keri Peardon, Wheelbarrows of Money

Joan, WW 1 spelled the end defeat of more than Germany. It ended European monarchies.

WW 2 ended European colonizers and made American empire possible.

I see examples of powerlessness as being a source of power, all around me. A baby cries in the night and sleepy parent or childcare worker rises from a nice warm bed and peaceful slumber to attend to the needs of another. That is legitimate powerlessness as being powerful. 

I agree that helplessness of an infant can lead to feelings of anger, rage, and violence. Maybe the crying baby who has unmet needs can go into the anger > violence dimension. If a pattern of needs not being met persists, violent adults may be the result. 

Working with troubled boys, my job was not to secure obedience to authority, but to develop skills needed to take care of themselves and to be accountable for their attitudes and behaviors. If a boy drops a carton of eggs and they break onto the floor, teach him the skills of how to clean up the mess and learn better ways of handling a carton of eggs. Accountability and responsibility come from internal power, not external coercion. 

OK, now all that said, how does vector factor into these situations? 

<a href="">Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>

Do babies see their powerlessness as power?

The boys protested “Conformity!”

Joan, you are rationalizing, from the point of view of those with power.

There are all kinds of power, the ability to get one's needs met, is one definition or able to bring about the desired change. 

If one has a flat tire, power may involve changing the tire oneself, or flagging down another motorist to change the tire, or one can use helpless power, by looking helpless, or one can use the power of a car service card to signal for need. 

If a baby is wet or hungry, he or she can use a helpless form of power to get its needs met. 

An elderly person needing help to cross a street is another use of helpless power. 

If my definition fits, then being a change agent is direct power, being in need of help from others is a helpless or dependent power. In any case, the individual needs to know the different forms of power and how to use them:

Legitimate Power (Able to make demands)

Coercive Power (Able to punish)

Expert Power (Able to do the task)

Informational Power (Able to control and use information)

Reward Power (Able to reward others)

Connection Power (Able to form networks)

Referent Power (Able to command respect)

and I would add Helpless power (Able to get others do what you can't. 

There are other forms of power; the object is to create change in the direction one desires. Power is neither good or bad, it is how one uses the power that creates problems. 


You have it precisely, Joan.  Power is a SCALAR quantity, NOT a vector quantity.  Power has amplitude, but no direction of its own, except that which is determined by its user.  Thus the quote I cited above.

I've never heard those terms, Loren, and the dictionary provides other uses. I like getting new words in my lexicon! Thanks. 

Joan, Loren saw the word “power” and, ignoring the modifier “social”, gave it a meaning used in engineering.




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