ABSTRACT

Introduction Social power is arguably the central concept of the social sciences (Haugaard and Clegg 2013). Wielded by nation-states, complex organizations, and individuals, power denotes social actors’ ability to infl uence or control events and outcomes, and to act in their own interests despite resistance from others (Weber [1921] 1978:53). While there has been much emphasis on power (Lukes 1974; Foucault 1975; Gaventa 1982), and the closely related topics of authority (Sennett 1980) and domination (Gramsci 1971; Scott 1990; Bourdieu 1998; Sidanius and Pratto 1999), powerlessness has received far less attention. Powerlessness means being subjected to domination by others and unable to live according to the dictates of one’s judgment and nature. Lukes ([1974] 2005) identifi es three levels of powerlessness: (i) powerlessness in a context of decision-making; (ii) a lack of control over an agenda, or lacking the power to decide what is to be decided, so that grievances are not expressed; and (iii) a level of being dominated that goes beyond Weber’s successful imposition of legitimate orders, to mean “subjection-inducing acquiescence, where power is an imposition or constraint, working against the interest of those subject to it” (Lukes [1974] 2005:12). This chapter aims to (i) clarify the distinction between objective and subjective levels of powerlessness and (ii) analyze subjective ‘feelings’ or ‘sentiments’ of powerlessness in terms of specifi c emotions.