Places and forms of power

also called: Seats and forms of power OR Locations and forms of power)

In politics and social science, power is the ability to influence people’s behaviour. In order to live together members of a community accept rules, regulations, laws. This helps to create social cohesion but can also lead to conflicts and tensions. Even when authority seems absolute, there are always counter-powers which question it, aim at limiting its excesses and resist it.

Examples can be:
– the power of the media (reality tv, internet v written press)
– Financial power (the power of money)
– Inequalities between blacks and whites – the fight against oppression and segregation (South Africa, USA)
– The American Dream
– The Civil Rights movement and political recognition : Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X (can also be linked to the notion of Myths and Heroes)

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LINK: Places and forms of power

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Places and Forms of Power

Power is the ability to control others, events, or resources; to succeed in doing what you want to do in spite of obstacles, resistance, or opposition. Power can be held but can also be quickly taken away, lost, or stolen. There is usually conflict between those with power and those without. Power is also associated with authority and influence and certain places can be associated with the authority – for example the White House and the President of the USA, 10 Downing Street and the British Prime Minister,  A place of power can also be a country or a state –  for example the USA is a state which is powerful enough to influence events throughout the world (superpower) and China is a major economic power in today’s world. Power is exercised by states — through military and police, through political groups and bureaucracies, through legislation; it is exercised by corporations and organizations or by social movements within society.

Members of a community accept rules and regulations in order to live or work together but this can also lead to conflict and tensions.

Here are some ideas to help illustrate this notion:

  • America’s gun problem and the gun debate
  • The Civil Rights movement and political recognition (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela)
  • Financial power: global financial crises and recession
  • The power of the media: influence over public opinion during elections, reality tv, 24h news channels, tabloid newspapers and scandal stories
  • The power of advertising: how demand is created for new products, designer brands, smartphones, sports clothes (sponsoring)
  • Cinema and power: how do films influence society? Movie stars using their fame to influence public opinion on certain topics (Leonardo Dicaprio, Schwarzenegger)
  • Arts and Power: using art for addressing political, social, and moral issues through paintings (Banksy)
  • The power of education: improving knowledge and education across the world and enabling access to education for all (Malala)
  • The power of music and the music industry: songs used to change people’s opinions on political subjects (vietnam war, US President, poverty, climate change), pop stars who use their fame to bring about changes in the world (Bono, Bob Geldof, Madonna)
  • Political power/terrorism/wars/monarchies/nuclear weapons


Useful and probable questions:

1. What places of power do you know?
2. What forms of power do you know?
3. How do people exercise their power? What tools can they use?
4. What in your opinion is the most dangerous form of power?
5. Can you give an example of a power struggle?
6. What are the limits to power? How is power abused?
7. Why and how do people need to exercise their power on others?
8. What form of power did the Civil Rights Movement represent in the USA in the 50s and 60s?
9. Do you think protest songs have any power?
10. Do you consider yourself under any form of control? By whom or by what?
11. Are you addicted to anything?
12. Do you consider consumerism a form of power? How? Are you personally under its influence?
13. Is there any law that you find unfair?
14. How can we limit the excesses of authority?
15. Do you think we are manipulated? ( by politicians, by the media, by ads…)
16. To what extent do you respect institutions? Which ones do you consider important?
17. What is the power of monarchy in GB?
18. Is there a fascination for power?
19. Would you regard a boycott as a good means of pressure on a brand, authorities …?
20. To what extent can education be a key to power? To empowerment?
21. Some say that advertising exerts too much power on customers. What about yourself? Do you think
you are influenced by advertising?
22. Should there be limits to the power of the press?
23. Are we being over-informed? Do we really need instant news?
24. Would you say power is equally shared between men and women nowadays?