Originally published at: https://www.sociocracyforall.org/power/
Let’s take care of the power, that we can take care of ourselves
→ This article about power is part II of the series “Hints Towards a Liberation Sociocracy”. Read part I: ‘Otherness’.
“No one liberates anyone, nor does anyone liberate himself alone. People liberate themselves in communion.”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Let us now turn to another side of the community-subject dialectic portrayed in the first entry of this series. In this intersubjective reality, to be listened to, to feel listened to, to be invited to the circle, to have a turn in the round, is equivalent to existing: to become a subject with capacity for action, with “agency“. If the circle is the space-moment where we weave reality, to have a turn in the round is to have the capacity to effect change in that reality, to be an “agent“—a co-author of your world together with your fellow human beings; in other words, to have power.
Regardless of particular ideologies or judgments that value it in terms of good and evil, power is part of our daily reality. We use it every day to accomplish our activities, which allows us to satisfy our needs: from the most concrete and immediate needs such as food and water, to some more abstract (but just as basic) ones, like affection and connection. We see the sociocratic exercise as an attempt to reconfigure power through resdistribution, which is also a redefinition of it.
If we define it as “the capacity to do”, The Power ceases to be a mystified thing, an abstract and intangible concept that is written in capital letters, and becomes a beautiful verb that is written in lower case: to empower.
Seen simply as “being able to do”, power is always present in every circumstance as potential, as the possibility of action. With sociocracy we do not seek to get rid of power, but instead simply to commit ourselves to share it in an intentional way in order to channel that possibility towards the satisfaction of our needs. Power doesn’t have to disappear or be erased, it simply needs to flow: to get where it needs to go without stagnating.
Imagine all the members of a circle pulling a blanket, each in his or her own direction: The idea is to keep the tension of the blanket balanced so that the weight of all of them can support the weight of each one with the weight of everyone else. All for one and one for all. Reciprocity is not only between peers, but between the individual and the collective. In order to share power in a balanced way, some of us have to learn to let go of the blanket a little, to pull it less tightly and let it go, but never let go completely. At the same time and in equal measure, it is up to others to learn to hold it more tightly, with greater responsibility and firmness. If we are well balanced, it is not necessary for anyone to pull, just put enough weight on each of us to help support each other without anyone falling.
The negative connotation that power often has today is because many of our experiences with it are in hierarchies of oppressors and oppressed in which we had no voice or consent, which hurts us deeply.
We believe that sociocracy can establish shared power and that this can create the necessary conditions for empowerment to flourish. Shared power is cultivated by peer-to-peer circles that make decisions by consent as equals. Empowerment means connecting with power – like possibility of doing – that each one of us carries within us intrinsically: to recognize that we are agents in our reality, co-architects of our world, to realize this and to truly feel that in every situation we have some agency.
Knowing oneself to be one more agent in this world of shared power implies a great responsibility. We can take co-responsibility and put our agency at the service of the group and shared power, to cultivate that sense of empowerment in each of our companions, to make each one of us feel safe at all times to use our voice, to speak our truth freely, to share our feelings with transparency and to say no—that is to say, to object.
In other words: to flourish, power requires care. We can cultivate emotionally safe spaces, which allow and normalize vulnerability, so that at all times each member feels that they have full freedom to object with certainty that they will be embraced by the Other and by the circle.
Cultivating that trust isn’t something you get overnight—it’s built with work over time. More important, it is an ongoing task—never quite finished. Trust can easily collapse from one moment to the next; re-establishing it, on the other hand, takes time and intention to cultivate it both in our shared spaces and in every bond we have with one another.
That is why we say that sociocracy is a system of governance that is as effective as it is affective. It is not simply that it is effective and affective at the same time, in simple addition. But it will be as effective as it is affective and vice versa. The idea is to build together from love and to fall in love in the process of building together.
In short: love each other because we have that power.