In this session we initiated an inquiry into power relations as experienced, as observed in social structures, and as expressed in a variety of forms. Taking an open (inductive) approach with the Talking Circle approach, the first dialogue explored the individual experience of power in everyday life. In the second dialogue we continued with a talking circle and a round of small group cafes. A group of about 20 inquired into the systems of power we face in modern civilization, and the structures and forms it takes. We suggested several deep pre-reads, the Off-Guardian’s “Left and Lockdown“, Charles Eisenstein’s The Coronation, and Matt Taibbi’s recent substacks.
The sketch presents some of the salient concepts of the dialogue. We can name and make visible the master power systems (economic structures, corporatism, and surveillance). Revealing their impact on human experience, safely in a small group, it becomes possible to challenge mental models and to critique and release our minds from the hegemony of power that we live within, and take for granted.
A few discovery questions to shape the inquiry:
- In a complex society with heterogeneous forms of power, are we each subject to different structures and forms of power we experience?
Or is there a sense in which we are all subject to the same powers, whether we accept them or not?
- How do you hold agency? Do our unique histories and commitments determine the boundaries of our personal power to alter policies, events, outcomes, and eventually our society?
- What structures are now available, or foreclosed, for acting on a commitment to collective power, e.g. democratic power of a people?
- How might we better shape our societies while sustaining collective wellbeing, privileging individual freedom, and guaranteeing self-expression?
- What have we learned from organized activism – have any of us achieved the desired outcome of our appeals? Where is it working or not? Could we be using obsolete means of intervention when considering larger goals of systems change?