January 09, 2006

Connectivism Blog: Power

Connectivism Blog

Power is an underlying thread that extends through all of life. We've all heard statements that 'money is power' or 'sex is power'. I don't have a strong opinion on the accuracy of those two statements, but I do believe that the real power issues of our era center around ideologies. Our ideologies are then expressed in how we create our institutions and organizations. What we believe, and the accompanying meaning of that belief, are central to the educational process.
The following are the key ideology-driven power constructs that will shape our world over the next several decades:...

  • Corporations. Corporations have one ulterior motive: generate value for shareholders. Country lines and patriotism are secondary to achievement of corporate vision. In our developing global environments, corporations hold tremendous power.

  • Far from being an ulterior motive, this is their explicitly stated overt goal. It has been pointed out elsewhere how corporations are essentially psychopathic, so I add no comment here. 

  • Belief-based organizations (religious, atheistic). Religious structures have long held an important role in society. The attainment of "higher ideals" has shaped and driven society for centuries. The loss of public power (i.e. governing people, law and punishment) has resulted in spiritual groups developing a quiet, often behind-the-scenes, power in the lives of their adherents. This quiet power is then reflected in how members of a group function within corporations, institutions, and government.
  •  No comment, other than to point the curious reader to this link.

  • Countries/governments. I'm not sure how this power structure will fair [sic] in a global era. Already we are seeing countries sacrifice some autonomy to be a part of larger multi-country trade and currency groups (EU, NAFTA are examples...and UN is a more global example, though countries don't necessarily sacrifice autonomy to be a part of UN).
  •  If "country lines ... are secondary to achievement of corporate vision" then this would seem to suggest that countries/governments run a serious risk of becoming irrelevant. The curious reader might take a look at The Global Trap for powerful evidence that, as far as economic policy is concerned, governments basically do as they are told.

  • "The people". This power structure has gained substantial capacity to influence corporations and governments (China and Iran may not be the best examples) with the advent of internet and communication technologies. Smart mobs and the "new superpower", are examples of informal, often rapid, organization of people around promoting/preserving an ideal, or righting an injustice. While a far cry from Marxist "power to the people" approach, this power structure works within to influence other structures (instead of trying to replace or duplicate them). “The people” wield their influence based on the nature of the power structure they are trying to influence (corporations with dollars, countries with votes, churches with reputation).
  • A rather naive view of the extent to which people power can influence events, particularly in so-called democratic countries.

  • Education. Education is the odd element in this power list. Education influences each structure listed above, as it is the process by which other power systems achieve and propagate their aims. In an ideological sense, I believe education, when coupled with appropriate power structure, is the only way we are able to truly change the world (for the better). In a sense, education is the balancing, accountability, critical thinking element of power.
  • the process by which other power systems achieve and propagate their aims. Exactly. Now go and read Gatto.

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