Power structure

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The Devil’s Advocate

A power structure, yesterday.

In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.

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Very closely related to Thomas Kuhn’s[1]paradigm”, Dr. Laurence J. Peter’s[2]hierarchy” and John Gall’s[3]system” a power structure is the self-organised structure that forms around a particular social purpose.

This can be obvious and institutional, as with a political organisation, a corporation or the academy — but it can be small-time: a spontaneous self-organisation of like-minded souls around a common interest: a church choir, a cricket club, a student union — even a chat forum or a prevailing friend group. Indeed, all power structures start off as utterly informal coming together of people who share an interest.

We are all part of power structures great and small, important and trivial, and they intersect, overlap, correlate, or bear no relation to each other. There are power structures of power structures, even.

The “power” conferred by a power structure only has currency within the power structure. Put a Nobel-prize winning astrophysicist on a cricket match, and his power derives only from his skill and experience at cricket. Noone cares about his facility with string theory. That power only pertains to the extent you acquiesce in, or submit to, the power structure. Some are easier to avoid than others. If you dislike cricket and despair of cricket administrators, it is little effort to stay away from cricket clubs and all will be well.

Even people who complain about power structures — at least ones who do in an organised and compelling way — have a power structure. Critical theory is a power structure. Power structures often outgrow their original purpose, because it is not the purpose but the power that is exciting.

See also