Power In Society A world of system designed to keep people in unjust and unequal positions is held in place by several interrelated expression of power over: political power, economic power, physical force, and ideological power (Bishop, 1994: 36). So, we can say power is defined as a possession of control, authority or influence over others. In terms of power of dominant groups over subordinate groups, we define power as domination of one group of people over another in major important spheres of life. Power inequities have been in existence throughout the history of humanity and the ways of manifestation evolved from extreme overt oppression to subtle, covert oppression. Three major forms of power inequalities discussed in this paper are based on property (class), domination whites over others (race) and men over women (gender).
Property owners as a dominant group have power over a subordinate group who do not own property. Karl Marx, one of the greatest economists of the XIX century, defines domination from the purely economic point of view. To Marx, a class is defined according to the ownership and control of the means of production; and therefore two major classes present in capitalism are bourgeoisie and proletariat. Bourgeoisie owns and controls the means of production. Proletariat, on the other hand, owns nothing and it sells its labour as a commodity in return for money.
The power presented here is this constant antagonism between those who own and control and those who do not possess the means of production. By possessing control over these means of production, they ultimately control labour force itself. Bourgeoisie makes proletariat to work long hours with less pay, makes workers comparative with jobs, and alienated workers just make enough for living. For if you are forced to sell your labour force as a commodity in order to survive, you are treated by those who buy this same commodity not differently that any other commodity available on the market that is necessary for the multiplication of capital. In Marx’s time, workers lacked bargaining power through unions, legal strikes or sabotage (Grabb, 1997: 17).
As a result, they could not form a united front against employers, and give themselves a power of collective resistance. In our society, we still can recognize basic elements of Marx’s theory. Today, at the end of twentieth century, capitalism is still a strong and developed system that will most likely remain to be so for some time. One thing that has changed is that through the establishment of workers unions, the gap between bourgeoisie and workers has narrowed. The 8-hour work – 8-hour rest – 8-hour sleep system that Marx proposed seems to be in place in many of the countries around the world. Despite these accomplishments, the power over subordinate group still exist.
Grabb argues that oppression on the class basis may seem absent in capitalist societies today, because workers are legally free to choose whether or not to accept to work for a capitalist (Grabb, 1997: 16). But, are workers really free to decide? In other terms, what are their options? For a worker who, by definition, does not own means of production, there is no other choice to earn a living than to sell his/her labour to the capitalist. Contrary to Marx’s theory that bases class inequality only on the economic ground, Webber adds two more components, prestige, and political power. He argues that those who are members of dominant classes, status groups, and party associations are able on the whole to exact compliance to their wills, on a regular basis, from the remaining population (Grabb, 1997: 54). In the previous centuries, this compliance was accomplished by physical force when violent social action was absolutely primordial(Grabb, 1997: 54).
However, in the late twentieth century, different forms of domination emerge, i.e. control over communication and media, control of innovation and developments etc. Therefore, we can conclude that class antagonism is present, only it is changing in form. Today, the capitalist class owns and controls the media, and therefore controls what information is disseminated to the rest of the population through TV, newspapers, Internet, etc. According to Anne Bishop, ordinary people are constantly exposed to the version of the truth carried by these information media, a version of the truth acceptable to the owners of the media (Bishop, 1994: 38). The large businesses are the ones funding the research and development activities, and they are in a position to control the direction of innovation and the impact of the innovation of our society.
For example, large business owners contributed funds for the developments in the computing field and made it impossible for an individual to function at the end of this century and not own a PC. Another example, large corporations that move to countries which do not have law about minimum wage so in that countries workers are paid less. And also neither politicians nor capitalists influence our thinking, such as actors, writers or athletes. Power inequalities related to racism issue have its base in one, dominant group-whites, labeling the other groups as inferior and restricting their rights. According to Miles a society that is dominate by white is racist (Class notes). Beliefs and images categorize people of real or attributed differences when compared self whites (subject) with other(object) (Miles, 1989: 11).
Racism is socially constructed by white over the course of history. The way racial power over subordinate group were manifested range from institutionalized overt racism to covert polite racism that is very common in our society. The example of the institutionalized racist system is the apartheid system in South Africa. In that society, all whites, regardless of their origin enjoyed comparatively greater rights, simply based on their skin color. Legal policies, laws and regulations were created to visibly separate population of black people from whites.
This system was a combination of an institutionalized racism and red neck racism, because not only was it legal to discriminate against blacks, but the people were proud of doing it. However, black people as a subordinate group of South Africa provided resistance through various actions; sabotage, protests, strikes, riots and finally won the fight for their freedom. According to Henry Frances, racism is, and always has been, one of the bedrock institutions of Canadian society. The most obvious example is the treatment of Aboriginal people. Besides introducing the system of indirect rule and segregation through various Indian Acts, British (whites) as dominant group imposed norms from their society on Aboriginal people.
British failed to recognize that Aboriginals have their own culture, customs, social organization and values that guide their everyday living. All Aboriginals were labeled Indians not r …