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On Power

Power is access.

The ones with the most power have the most access. Use a simple thumb rule: count the number of rooms you have access to in your organization. If you have more access than some other counterpart of yours, then you are more powerful in the organization structure. Likewise, in the social structure, the driver of an MP might be more powerful than most of us. He has access to more people, more homes, more offices.


Access needs to be legitimate.

Of course, you can just barge in. But is that access legitimate? Can you replicate it across time and geography? If not, then such one-time access does not count for much.

Access to information counts the most.


The “rooms” were used as a metaphor. One may even say that power is access to information. If you can have all the information sitting from your room, you would be the most powerful person on planet earth.

Power is the source of all corruption.

Current flows whenever there is a potential difference. The same can be said about corruption. Wherever there is difference in power levels, there would be corruption ( in either tacit or explicit way). To eliminate corruption, you need to demolish the power structures. To demolish power structures, you need to make access of public to information free and easy. Hence, technology.

We need better technocrats to make the lives of our people better.

Technocrats who understand the social structure, technology and the need for equal development are better poised to drive change than even bureaucrats. It is because without technology, you cannot possibly hope to make information free and accessible to all.

Amartya Dey, India

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Human Aspect: The Context of Power

Power relations are dynamic. 

Most imagine power relations to be static. They believe that the powerful shall remain powerful always irrespective of the time and space they operate in. But this could not be further than the truth. Power relations are evolving constantly. Depending on the behavior of certain variables, power relations change and the ones who can take note of these changes, stand to benefit.


The Importance of Space

In a nation with high power distance and bureaucratic interventions, the bureaucrats would naturally hold more power. But the bureaucrats would not hold the same level of power in a developed country where all benefits are transferred online to its citizens and the scope to use discretionary power is limited.


Further, the importance of space in power relations can easily be understood by us when we are stopped by a security guard of a building complex who has been authorized not through a legal dictate but just by the dictate of the dwellers to inquire the nature of business and destination from every visitor. You might be more educated and in a better position in society, but right at that space, at that moment, the guard holds power over you, which brings us to:

The Importance of Time

The Guard would hold more power over you if it is in the middle of night rather than in the morning hours.

A union leader would have more power over the management of an organization in a year marked with unfortunate accidents. The police would have more power in a state of emergency rather than in times of peace. Isn’t it wonderful how differently we can look at the variables themselves? 


Time can also be looked at through lens of time-period or a fast approaching deadline. The party whose deadline is nearer would be keener to come to a solution and thus, yield some power to their opponent.

The Importance of Relation

This sounds apparent. But often we forget that power relations depend a lot on how much intertwined both the parties are. How dependent are they on each other? How frequently do they have to deal with each other? If there is no dependency, the chances of conflict would be minimal.

But in a globalized world, can there be any two persons with no mutual dependency? Maybe this is one of the reason why conflicts around the world are increasing at such a rate!


What other variables do you think affect power relations? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Amartya Dey, India

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