An Exploration of POWER


Power is a contested concept with multiple meanings. How you define power may not be how the person sitting next to you defines it.

Try out this exercise: Use the word "power" and one of the prepositions below in a sentence. Write a second (or more!) sentence using "power" with a different preposition. 

Over To With Within   Off By Through Down

How does the meaning of "power" change with each of your sentences? Compare your sentences to those of a friend. What differences in meaning do you spot now? 

Our hope is that the 2017 Spirit & Place Festival will provide the community with multiple interpretations on "power" so that we all might gain a broader perspective on the role power plays in our lives. To get us started, here are what others have had to say on the matter . . .

Art & Literature
In 2006, the BBC produced an eight part series entitled The Power of Art which highlighted the influence of artists such as Picasso, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Rothko. Many artists today see themselves not only as artists but as activists for social justice.

Literature often challenges us to wrestle with difficult questions about ourselves and our role, our power, in the world.

How far would you go to have power? (MacBeth by William Shakespeare)
What kind of leader would you be without society's restraints? (Lord of the Flies by William Golding)
Is there such a thing as "the power of love?" (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)
Who is to blame for crushing poverty? (Les Miserbles by Victor Hugo)
Does power always corrupt? (Animal Farm by George Orwell)
How powerful is sex? (Lysistrata by Aristophanes)

Religion
What does religious life look like in Indiana? Check out this 2015 survey to examine the power of religion in the lives of Hoosiers’ today.

When it comes religion and “power,” women have not always fared well. Take a look at what this woman is doing to work for change inside her church

Separation of Church and State has been a long debated topic. When religion is removed from the public sphere, what might we lose? Alternatively, is this separation what the Founding Fathers wanted all along and does it protect the religious freedom and power of both majority and minority groups? 

Politics & Civics
Let's make "civics sexy!" says Eric Liu in "Why Ordinary People Need to Understand Power." You can also take a quiz created by Liu to determine how much political power you currently have. 

Want to increase your civic knowledge--the true bedrock of democratic power? Check out groups like Citizen University and iCivics. Feeling feisty? Don't forget what Henry David Thoreau had to say about the power of civil disobedience

Social Sciences
Sociologists have researched and written about the origin and nature of power for years. Many have focused attention on economic forces, especially capitalism. Here are short videos on the major writings and interpretations of some of history's most influential sociologists.

Max Weber. Do you think ideas are more powerful than money?
Karl Marx. Is the power of capitalism good or bad? Both? Neither?
Emile Durkheim. How do we negate the powerful forces of capitalism and create meaningful connections?

Interested in what contemporary social scientists think? Listen to what Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson has to say about the power to end poverty and UC-Berkeley professor Arlie Hochschild's take on what America feels like to Trump supporters. And if you think power is derived by purely Machiavellian means, you might want to explore the work of Dacher Keltner in "The Power Paradox" for an alternative view. 

Science
Power can be interpreted in many different ways, including literally. Ever wonder where electricity comes from? If nuclear power is safe? If recycling truly has the power to make a difference? Maybe you're even curious about the hidden superpowers of the natural world. (Think: cat fleas & sequoia trees. Seriously!) And just how close are we to creating humans with superhero type powers?