In SoFA’s recently adopted Social Justice Statement the concepts of power with as opposed to power over are used.
I’m curious to discuss:
What do these concepts mean to you? Why are they important (or not)?
How do these concepts translate to your community’s language(s)?
If you’d like to read more about the concepts, this blog post discusses these two as well as “power within” and “power to”.
In my first language, German, there’s absolutely no way of saying this. I can say something like “coercive” power (zwangsweise?) or superior (übergeordnet? übermächtig?) but none of these say what I’m trying to say.
On a conceptual level, I think this question is key to understand sociocracy. Because it represents the change in culture that we’re trying to make. Not throwing our hierarchy but using the best of hierarchy (the clarity and the small, nested clusters of domins) while leaving behind the coercive part of hierarchy.
A word that I think is useful for this is the concept of sovereignity, having power in your domain. So a sub-circle might be sovereign in their domain but have a superordinate circle.
It’s almost like the language we use is 50 years behind of what we’re trying to say!
I am reminded of the story of two young fish swimming in the sea. An older fish passes by and calls out “How’s the water, boys?” before he moves on. After a moment one young fish turns to the other and asks “What’s water?”.
The profound “sea” of associations people socialized in western industrialized culture tap into when they enter any relationship is loaded with “power over” assumptions that are largely invisible. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, raised by parents who were socialized in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. I had no idea my gender identity was so culturally-informed. When I was young I thought nice women were subservient to their husbands—at least that’s what my father told me.
The new territory we enter when we hope to be a part of “power with” groups is one we are shaping in every interaction. Surface commitment to values is often lost when personalities struggle to achieve goals, despite good intentions.
In my experience, community members often do not agree about the defined boundaries between circles, and thus “sovereignty” can be relative in definition and domains can overlap.
I personally resonate with “power with” and strive to live this value in my actions. Without actual power to say “no” to a proposal or action that impacts me, I cannot experience true consent in my interactions.
I agree with Ted–what is required is deep cultural change.
I couldn’t agree more.
Yes, and that requires so much learning. We need to learn to ask in the first place. We need to learn to accept a no and work with it with curiosity. We need to learn how to say no. Those 3 things are already enough for 100 years of individual and collective learning and re-conditioning.
How do we get out of hierarchy? Check out Ted’s FB Live
We touch on a few points in this blog article: There is no hierarchy in sociocracy… right?