chapter
power
Pages 4

Power has been defined in a great variety of ways by anthropologists, ranging from physical domination to symbolic empowerment. Of course, for there to be talk of power at all, anthropologists must be speaking of distinctions: either between an *individual and a group, as in the power legitimized through acknowledged, often redistributive, leadership; or one group and another group, as in *colonial domination; or between humans and their *environmental energy sources, as in the power of a collectivity to organize and maintain itself. Social and *political anthropologists have theorized about forms of social organization in non-state and *state societies which legitimize the power of specific †lineages, *classes, or individuals to make decisions pertaining to others’ lives and the organization of social and material resources. Conflict theorists have studied *factionalism and how claims to power are asserted and contested. *Resistance theorists have studied more closely the ways in which those who seek to dominate others through the use of language, *ritual, and force, are resisted by those seeking self-determination or, in turn, domination also. A study of power implies not only a study of social distinctions but also of the *inequalities implied in those distinctions -whether one is following †Marx in thinking about the extraction of surplus labour or more recent theorists of the inequalities embedded in *racial and *gender distinctions. Power has been thought of by anthropologists as human influence and †agency, and even as-reflecting various world views-situated outside humanity (see, for example, the cross-cultural notions of power described in Fogelson and Adams 1977). Attention to power goes in tandem with attention to powerlessness, although not all theories of power are binary.