Popitz, H.(1976), Prozesse der Machtbildung, Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck)
Popitz references William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies, in which a group of children are stranded on an uninhabited island and struggle to maintain order and survive. In this book, Popitz describes situations that are analogous to the island in Golding's book and uses them to develop a theory about the formation of power.
Popitz discusses the concept of power and how it can be maintained or gained. A group of people on a plane who are later stranded together on an island, must fight for control over resources such as deck seats ;-). The group that takes control of the seats initially has an organizational advantage, as they can use their possession of the seats as leverage to assert their power and maintain control. Those who oppose the new power structure may be seen as intolerant and may struggle to effectively challenge the established order without resorting to violence. The early resistance to the new power structure may not be perceived as legitimate and may lead to the opposition being seen as unreasonable. The maintenance of power often requires the use of force or the threat of violence.
Power formations can take many forms and that it is important to consider the specific context in which they occur. Popitz presents three examples in order to illustrate different interpretations of power formations:
1. passengers on a ship; this illustrates the formation of power through consensus, or the development of a shared understanding among a group of people;
2. a prisoner of war camp; this illustrates the formation of power through authority, or the influence exerted by a single individual over others;
3. a boarding school; this illustrates the formation of power through violence, or the use of physical force to control others.
How can power be maintained and how can it be challenged? Consider passengers on a ship fighting over the use of deck chairs. The passengers who have claimed ownership of a deck chair have a greater ability to organize and defend their claim because they have a shared interest in maintaining their possession of the chair. The other passengers, who do not have a chair, have a more difficult time organizing because their shared interest in obtaining a chair is not as immediately evident. The passengers without a chair must first identify their common interest, which is not as straightforward as the shared interest of the chair-owners. The chair-owners have the advantage of being able to cooperate with each other and offer mutual support, while the non-chair-owners do not have this same opportunity. Power is maintained through the ability to cooperate and organize; those who do not have power may have a more difficult time challenging it because they must first identify and unite around their shared interests.
Those who do not have power face greater difficulties in organizing and achieving their goals than those who are positively privileged (i.e., those who have power). This is because the negatively privileged lack the advantage of shared ownership and the ability to cooperate, which makes it more difficult for them to unite around their shared interests. The negatively privileged must overcome their own inhibitions and develop a sense of determination in order to successfully challenge the existing power structures. The process of democratization, or the expansion of political participation and representation, is the result of the exceptional organizational abilities of marginalized groups. Overall, those who lack power can challenge the existing power structures by organizing and working together; this process requires a strong sense of solidarity and determination.
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