Gaventa – Power and Powerlessness, Chapter 1: Gaventa – Power and Powerlessness.pdf
This reading is focused on a simple question with a much less simple solution: why do people and groups (not individuals, but collections of folks) allow themselves to be mistreated and/or oppressed? When you hear people talking about “systemic” insert-bad-problem-here, they are talking about this sort of group-based interaction. The typical explanation for people acquiescing (submitting, or giving in) to oppression is that they are apathetic, or lack worth or dignity, or that they have simply given up. Gaventa rejects the idea that people would simply give up, instead he suggests that we need a better understanding of how groups that hold power relate to and influence those who are out of power. We’ve explored some of those relationships, like Coates’ black home buyers in Chicago relative to the banks and contract lenders.
For this, your final discussion board assignment, pick a group of your choice. Any group is fine here, but you’ll find this to be easiest if you pick a group that is familiar or of interest to you and is socially or politically relevant (Dallas Cowboys fans may feel oppressed by Jerry Jones’ abysmal mismanagement of the organization for the past 25 years, but that wouldn’t make for an easy discussion). Give some thought to how the group you selected experiences power from each of the three dimensions. If your group is relatively powerful, you’re probably looking at how they use that power towards/against others; if your group is relatively weaker, how more powerful groups use power against them.
Your discussion post should clearly define the group you are examining and where they stand in terms of having or lacking power (this should be quick, a couple of sentences in a short paragraph.) Then, for each dimension of power provide a real world example and explanation of how that group is influenced by some other group, or if you chose a more powerful group, how that group exercises power against another. So you’ll have, probably, 3 more paragraphs where each one has a few sentences illustrating an example of each dimension of power, each dimension getting its own paragraph — this is the more important part.
Last tip: Don’t over think this. Power is something you instinctively know stuff about. The academic literature is complex, but the concepts are intuitive. The first dimension of power — Pluralist power, A forces B because A has more resources — is basic majority rules in a democratic sense, or the power of wealth in an economic sense. Jerry Jones has the money, so he gets to hire the players and coaches — if you don’t like it, you are welcome to become a multi-millionaire and buy your own team but until then, money wins
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