This stress on authorless, systemic empowerment, rather than on the manipulative agents of power-building, was not quite what I had in mind when organising the 1997 ASA conference on ‘Power, Empowerment and Disempowerment in Changing Structures’ in Harare.2 My own concern was much more old-fashioned, a modernist inclination within the context of changing state powers to understand ‘what power is, how it is constituted, and how it works within an allegedly postmodern world in which older rules of authority seem to have decreasing relevance’.3 I had hoped to attract papers dealing with:

the impacts of policy interventions and opportunities at state, supra-state and extra-state levels-for example, on the ways in which people evade or ignore

the reach of the state in constructing economic power beyond state control; the opportunities for and constraints on ethnic, gender and other group or categorical empowerment offerred by institutions such as United Nations agencies and forums, multinational Non-Governmental Organisations, the European Union, the International Court of Justice, the Internet and the global media, among many others; the possibilities for empowerment by manipulating the interstices between local, regional and central levels of state bureaucratic organisation; and issues of ‘management’.