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Power Jrp

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Empowerment and Community Planning

Chapter 1

Theories of Power
A Survey Towards the Development of a Theory of Power
Before beginning the discussion of empowerment and the development of a theory connected with it, I want to deal with a concept that is prior to empowerment—power. Power is a key concept for an understanding of processes of empowerment. The theory of empowerment that will be developed further on will draw its inspiration from an integration of two domains: from an understanding of theories of power and the use of insights drawn from these for the purposes of developing a theory of empowerment, and from an analysis of processes of empowerment. Hence, this deeper study of it will also make possible a better understanding of states of powerlessness, practices of disempowerment, and processes by which people and communities struggle for control over their lives and environments.

A Brief History of Theories of Power
This chapter makes no pretension to survey all the existing literature in the field of the theories of power. It begins with a historical survey of thought about power in the social sciences, relating only to the most prominent theories. Further on, a number of theories that contain elements suitable to the development of a theory of empowerment are presented in more detail. Modern thinking about power begins in the writings of Nicollò Machiavelli (The Prince, early 16th century) and Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan, mid-17th century). Their books are considered classics of political writing, and the



Empowerment and Community Planning

Chapter 1: Theories of Power

contrast between them represents the two main routes along which thought about power has continued to this day (Clegg, 1989). Machiavelli represents the strategic and decentralized thinking about power and organization. He sees power as a means, not a resource,...

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