User:Nicola.georgiou/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge/Seminar group 13/ Power

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Seminar Group 13 Power Contributions


Power has many definitions depending on the context it is observed in. It can be defined as: the ability to control people and events, or the official or legal right to act in a certain way, or the rate at which energy is used or even the amount of political control a person or a group has over a country. All of these definitions are true to a certain type or interpretation of power.

We recognise power due to its capacity to direct the behaviour of others or to determine the course of events through its ability to give authority and credibility to individuals. This weight that power has over human decision-making and reasoning is why human history and evolution has been so determined by it, be it through racism, sexism, colonialism, classism, religious discrimination and many other forms of injustice. Moreover, power is an issue that goes above any individual discipline, yet manages to dictate some form of injustice within all of them. Thus, it's interdisciplinarity specifically allows us to further inspect the effects of power through the isolation of different forms of powers in certain disciplines.

It is a very broad concept that can be categorised as direct or indirect coercion, or as a strategy or multiple strategies.

Direct Power is to possess the ability to cause actions; to force another actor to do what one wishes. [1] Similar to power as a concept in physics this is the power which one possesses that directs a forcible change in the behaviour of another. Indirect Power on the other hand, is the notion of coercion wherein a persons choices are structured or limited in a manner that provokes a certain decision. [2] This can be achieved through the suppression or limitation of the expression of certain interests, or other indirect means.

Power, as a Strategy, describes the way power can construct our subjectivities, to intersect and connect in a way which creates dominance. [1] These different strategies result in Power as Multiple Strategies, which can be witnessed at the intersection between different types of power - coercive, institutional, and others, interacting to assert an overreaching intersectional form of power. [1]

Using these approaches, this article will analyse power in various disciplines. [3]

Power in Bias Recognition[edit]

Indirect power in bias recognition - Myside bias[edit]

Indirect power in bias recognition considers the ideologies, prejudices and other such biases that are involved in the study of precisely these concepts. “Biases perpetuate when people think that they are innocent whereas others are guilty of biases. We examined whether people would detect biased thinking and behaviour in others but not themselves as influenced by pre-existing beliefs (myside bias) and social stigmas (social biases).” [4] Bias recognition focuses on the inherent power dynamic that exists between those that produce work and those that critique it, showing that this critique ought to be subject to analysis of its own to level the academic field and avoid the subconscious formation of these dynamics.

This corruption of perception, shown to produce statistical inaccuracies [4] also can be shown to have a dramatic influence on political leanings and the social balance of power. One contemporary example includes race relations, and the ability to view the ideological opposition as individuals as opposed to irrational collectives; The faltering of this ability is cited therefore as a potential motive for the polarization of our society. [5] This inability to distinguish between the biases of those one is considering and your own is known in the field of bias recognition as Myside bias, commonly tied to confirmation bias (“Confirmation bias, the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. This biased approach to decision making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information.” [6] [7]; this statistical disruption is itself a form of indirect power leading to differing degrees of critique across academia, this forms a tendency to provide a lessened critique of agreeing with works which in turn leads to the formation of echo chambers within academia, as those ideas that are agreed with and cause lesser disturbance can propagate while more innovative ideas that demand a higher level of acceptance are halted by an augmented level of analysis and rebuttal.

Power in Economics[edit]

Market Power (or economic strength)[edit]

Market power refers to the ability of an organisation or firm to control the price of a certain product by manipulating supply, demand or both. It is also referred to as economic strength. Economic strength is a clear example of how directly power can be applied, here in the field of economics. Companies able to raise the market price over the marginal cost are called price makers. By doing so, these firms achieve great economic profit without losing customers. Firms with great economic strength can shape the market to their free will, in ways that benefit them greatly and often at the expense of others.[8]

The ability for firms to apply market power depends greatly on the structure of the market. There exists four different market types:

- Perfect competition market (or atomistic market): In a perfect competition, there are many different organisations all selling the same products, free to enter and with no one setting the price. That is because no market participants truly possesses market power as they all are on the same level.[9]

- Monopoly: Extreme case of market power where one single firm controls the entire market. The firm is the one biggest supplier of a specific service or good, which means they have full power when it comes to influence the output or the supply of said-service.[10]

- Monopolistic competition: Quite a similar structure as perfect competition except that all individual sellers are able to vary the price of their own product by a small margin. This leads to alteration of the products to appeal to the buyer and counter the sales-promotion costs. Monopolistic competition is a market where there is the atomistic relation between competitors of a perfect market, but not the product homogeneity you find in a monopoly.[11]

- Oligopoly: An oligopolistic market is one where power dominance is detained by a small group of large sellers. These larger companies collude together thanks to different methods in order to set up barriers and prevent competition to enter the market freely. This results in full control of the market and more expensive products for the consumer.[12]

If market power is extremely practical for those that posses it, it can be very bad for others. Firms with strong economic strength actually lower the overall quantity demanded of the product by increasing their prices. This often leads to non-desired economic excess burden. This leads many countries or organisations to try limiting the economic strength of some firms, for example using competition laws.[13] For example, the European Union has set up a great number of anti-trust laws in order to prevent the economic power of a firm within the free European market to crush all the other ones.[14]

Power in Education[edit]

Power is “one’s ability to do or get what they want in opposition to the intentions of others”[15]. This idea of being independent and able to realize anything we want to is the very vocation of education according to UNESCO : it “empower(s) people with the knowledge, skills and values to live in dignity, build their lives and contribute to their societies”[16]. Therefore, education is in itself a discipline, and the very process by which anything is taught involves different power dynamics.

Power as a result of education[edit]

Firstly, education is the “the process of teaching or learning in a school, or the knowledge that you get from this” [17], and thus concerns providing students with knowledge and techniques of thinking and communicating, and empowering them with those. Education is therefore a power in itself, being educated is being powerful, able to achieve particular goals in life as education opens doors towards professional and social opportunities. As a matter of fact, education is powerful against social inequalities : 420 million people that currently live in poverty could meet a more comfortable way of life with access to education. [18]

Power dynamics within education[edit]

Education is also defined as the “study of methods and theories of teaching”, the curriculum pursued in order to become a teacher or professor. These studies legitimate the hierarchy in academic systems between students and professors: the teacher holds power over their students, justified as they are considered a reliable source of knowledge. This is power as direct coercion, the teacher can make the student do things they would not do on their own. However, as any individual, a teacher bears intersectionality and consequently, an individual subjectivity and unconscious bias. This could reflect on their way of assessing and this is why teachers have to pursue a neutrality training and also why students in national exams are anonymously assessed. Otherwise, the power lying in education could be used by teachers, voluntarily or not, as a strategy to implement biased ideas into students’ minds and could also impact the fairness in evaluation. It would result in indirect coercion (discussed in the following section) which could affect equal opportunities for all students. This matter is discussed in "On Teacher Neutrality: Praxis, Politics and Performativity" by Daniel P. Richards. [19] Such power imbalances, without a concern for neutrality and objectivity, would eventually be counterproductive in the goal of education not to leave any child behind.[20]

In short, education involves power dynamics at its heart but is also about training powerful and aware individuals. Its aim is to eventually reach an equally diverse stream of educated independent thinkers with limited social inequalities. Education is therefore fundamental in the process of balancing current power inequalities between social groups and consequently limiting coercion among them.

Power as an indirect (institutionalised) coercion in the field Education.[edit]


The act of censoring is defined as the suppression or prohibition of content judged to be unacceptable, obscene or a threat to security.[21] Censorship can be conducted by governments, institutions and different types of controlling bodies. It may involve the limitation, or an altogether ban, of access to certain types of information - having thus a direct influence on people's opinions and ideas, as well as their further actions.[22]

The act of censorship in Educational sources[edit]

Educational sources play a big role in the development of youth's ideas, opinions as well as critical skill. As it is the youth that represents the future of a society, censorship and manipulation of material taught in educational institutions is not a rare occurrence. Censorship in educational sources may simply consist of the removal of content deemed inappropriate for children, such as nudity and explicit language, however, in more severe cases, it concerns social and religious themes that are deemed controversial.[23]

Examples of such censorship include the omission of Darwin's theory of evolution in the curriculum of some American schools, as it heavily contradicts religious statements put forward by the Bible. This omission prevents students from observing other perspectives to the idea of human creation, and thus from doubting their strictly religious upbringing- making them adhere to their religious community's expectations.[24]

This type of censorship in education, allows for organisations and institutions to take control over the youth's beliefs and opinions, creating a whole generation of individuals whose behaviour has been constructed to the said controlling body's liking.[25]

Power in International Relations[edit]

Soft power[edit]

Soft power can be seen as a form of indirect power used as a strategy, visible within the discipline of international relations.

As opposed to “hard power”, reaching objectives through the use of force or coercion, soft power relies on the use of economic or cultural means to exert influence, demonstrating the use of power as both strategy and indirect influence. [26]

The term soft power was first coined by Joseph Nye in the late 1980s, in defining his interpretation of the post-Cold War international order.[27] Nye suggests that within the discipline of international relations, there is a rising significance of factors such as technology, education and economic growth, in lieu of traditional fields of geography, population and raw materials. [28]He identifies five characteristics of international relations in the modern era; economic interdependence, transnational actors, nationalism in weak states, technology and changing political issues.[28] In this new reality, intangible forms of power are more important, such as what Nye calls “soft” or co-optive power. Rather than needing and paying for coercive measures, a country should use the fields of culture, ideology and institutions to appear attractive, and thus structure opportunities for allies to develop interests that align with the nation. [29]This form of power aligns with the definitions and aims of both strategic and indirect power - strategically using indirect means to establish power in the international arena.

Chinese Soft Power in Africa in the 21st Century[edit]

In addition to displays of direct power in Africa, through investment, trade as well as physical presence, the use of educational and technological initiatives are an important aspect of China's foreign policy in Africa, establishing and exerting soft power in the region. [30] The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established in 2000, commencing the Programme for China–Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development[31].As part of the special relationship this forum defines, China has an active role in Africa through civil society, private sector as well as aiming to expand Chinese influence in African policymaking, exerting indirect coercive power in the host nations governmental operations. [32] The union was strengthened by the African Union (AU) creating the China–AU Strategic Dialogue in 2008, symbolised by its $200 million headquarters in Ethiopia gifted by China.[31]

Chinese influence is markedly notable in the sector of education. Since 2004, there has been the establishment of 48 Confucius institutes in Africa.[30] These are partnerships between Chinese and foreign universities – where a domestic university provides space, lecturers and funding is sent from China to provide programmes which are taught in context of the home university’s curriculum. Additionally, China offers strong educational support to African students, providing opportunities for African students to study in China. [33] UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report found that China was offering 12,000 scholarships to African students in the following year – a figure which represents a greater sum than the rest of western nations combined. [34]

The influence of Chinese policy on the African continent has been tangible. According to an Afrobarometer study in 2016, 63% of Africans (of those in the 36 surveyed nations) deemed China’s influence in Africa as being positive.[35] In three of five African regions, the Chinese development model either matches or surpasses the popularity of America’s.[35]This demonstrates the growing influence of Chinese thinking and education within Africa, however, through co-optive rather than coercive means - evidencing the use of indirect power, and power as straetgy

Power in Linguistics: The ‘Maleness’ of Language and its Oppression of Women[edit]

Language as a Struggle for Power[edit]

One may see language as something neutral, inoffensive, irrelevant to the study of oppression and inequalities. But sociolinguists study ‘language in relation to social factors, including differences of region, class, and occupational dialect, gender differences, and bilingualism.'[36] Thompson argues that the oppression of women is a systemic social and political linguistic strategy. He studied the ‘ways in which meaning (or signification) serves to sustain relations of domination.’[37] For example, in the popular statement 'it is wrong to have sex before marriage,' the use of the pronoun "it" gives this utterance an authoritative, absolute, eternal (reification) maxim-like weight.

Toni Morrison famously stated : ‘Language can be a real battlefield, a place of oppression, but also of resistance.’[38]

Language as a place of oppression[edit]

‘The Invisibility of Women’[39][edit]

Terms like ‘man’ and ‘he’ serve both as male-marked and gender neutral words. They contribute to ‘obscuring women’s importance [in society], and distracting attention from their existence.’[40] Miller highlighted that women avoided responding to job advertisements phrased with the he/his generic terminology for they feared they didn’t « meet the qualifications »[41].  This demonstrates how language can be at the root of gender-based employment disparities.

‘The Maleness as a Norm’[edit]

Many terms, especially those who describe an occupation, rest on male norm.  One would say a 'doctor' (male-marked in the collective imagination) and would precise a 'woman doctor' or worse 'lady doctor'[42] (worse for it delegitimizes the professionalism of a female doctor). The presence of women in —usually authority— positions is understood as deviant. It echos Beauvoir’s analysis that ‘women are defined not in themselves but as relative to men who are positioned as universal.’[43]

The Sexualization of Women[edit]

Objectification —especially sexually— of women is a normalized and persistent phenomenon. Insults aimed at women predominantly express sexual promiscuousness (bitch, slut, whore, cunt). Insults towards men revolve around homosexuality (considered stereotypically as 'feminine men') and the promiscuousness of their mother (son of a bitch). Another example is the double —sexual— meaning some words hold for women (and not for men).[44] A professional refers to ‘a person engaged or qualified in a profession’ for both genders. It also holds a negative connotation for women by designating a prostitute.[45]

The Encoding of the Male Experience[edit]

Descriptions of experience rely on words that were —principally and originally— thought of to express androcentrism. The lack of words to convey important female experiences leads to their invisibility or their distortion.[46] Spouse rape was long considered impossible and was not criminalized because a wife was considered as her husband property. The term didn’t exist for it served no utility in a man’s world. How to fight a crime that can’t be named ?

Language as a Place of Resistance[edit]

Numerous feminist linguists and activists have pushed for the creation of female congenial reality and thus a congenial language. Ergun describes female empowerment ‘through innovative linguistic usages that made women and their gendered experiences textually visible.’[47]

The Fight for Neutral Terms : the Decodification of women’s existences[edit]

A big win for feminists was the popularized and legal use of  the appellation 'Ms' instead of 'Miss' (which referred to unmarried girl) or 'Mrs' (which referred to a married woman). In both previous cases, the woman was defined by her marital status.[48]

The ‘Revolutionary Creativity’ : Neologisms that express female experiences[edit]

Thompson used the term 'revolutionary creativity’[49] when exploring the possibility of linguistics and social revolution. It consists of the creation of new expressions that faithfully describe women’s experiences. Similarly to the term ‘marital rape’, the term ‘sexual harassment’ first publicly appeared in 1975 before the Commission of Human Rights of New York City. This new linguistic formulation opened a new chapter in women’s rights in the workplace especially. The universality of the #MeToo movement is in part a result of this linguistic possibility.

wikipedia:Intersectionality now poses new questions of inclusivity and inequalities of language. The study of Language continues to highlight systems of oppression and will continue to adapt in a fight for equality.

Power in Mathematics[edit]

Power as direct coercion in mathematics[edit]

For John Conway, there is a form of power offered to anyone in mathematics. He argues that ideas in mathematics are simple and that anyone could have discovered them. It is simply a matter of hazard. John Conway argues that these simple ideas can be used anywhere, in any other matter. [50] This is a way in which anyone can handle power in mathematics. By giving freedom of thoughts to their rational mind, human beings can look for ways in which we can use mathematics in life. Here, we can refer to power as direct coercion, in the way that many forms of power can be used by anyone in any matter.

Power as strategy in mathematics[edit]

Mathematics holds a power in its structure of classification and characterization. Children have the ability to use this power in many ways. But usually it is the teachers who give them the structures when they could create their own. John Mason argues that we should give more emphasize to students to create these structures of classification and characterization as they have the capabilities to do so. There is indeed a considerable amount of ways of doing so. By doing so, learners will find their own way of doing and appreciating mathematics. [51] This is another way in which anyone can handle power in his studies of mathematics. It can be referred to as an example of power as strategy. The ways in which we use classification and characterization can restrain our power of perspectives in mathematics.

Power in the media[edit]

The media nowadays has all the power on the news and information we receive. They gather, pick, edit, present that information, which gives them some control. The media has a lot of influence over people’s actions.

The media and health issues[edit]

That power can be negative, when either used consciously to manipulate people or to influence their beliefs. When forming their opinion people are likely to consider the opinions of others and the media allows that showing what is popular at the moment, what are influential people doing… They have a direct power over people that can be dangerous.[52] Through adverts the media can make people desire something they do not need at all, through polls and surveys they can influence someone’s political opinion and through photographs they can influence how someone views themselves. Their influence goes beyond superficial ideas that they give to people, they can influence their mind state and mental health. Studies have shown that the media and the 'ideal body type' that is promoted affects people and can not only lower their self-esteem but push them to start developing an eating disorder.[53] Even if, the media cannot be blamed directly for the increase of mental and physical health issues in the recent years, they can be blamed for promoting some content. The power they have is very important as it can play a part in people’s health. [54]

Power in the media and political influence[edit]

This power is indirect because the media organisation has the ability to choose how and what they are going to communicate. Anything said, published or filmed has been reviewed and edited. A media organisation can choose to omit information even if sometimes it is not unethical, for instance, in an advertisement for an item, the brand is not expected to present every single detail. But it is not always justified, whether it is to convince people of something without giving them all the information or to manipulate their actions. The media can take away people’s choice. This is mostly used in politics. Trying to convince people to vote for someone instead of someone else is an example of the extent of that power. That can be done by showing incomplete data or impose strong views to people who are confused or easily influenced.[55] Even if the media has a great amount of power and hold over society, some journals would not risk their paper’s integrity to make people vote for someone particular.[56] [57]

Echo chambers within (social) media[edit]

The term echo chamber is a metaphor that illustrates the way a certain set of ideas and beliefs can be confirmed and magnified. This occurs as a result of 'insulation' from any rebuttal that contradicts what is being communicated within the echo chamber. [58] Echo chambers can misrepresent the true state of affairs, with a range of consequences. A false sense of security could be imparted, or a climate of fear created by amplifying misleading facts, acting as a barrier to truth.

The relationship between power and echo chambers is cyclical. Companies and networking services such as Facebook are very powerful, and the frequency of echo chambers is evidence of the power they have to influence peoples opinions. The power of Facebook stems from its size [59], and the scandal of Cambridge Analyticas involvement in the 2016 US election is indicative of the extent to which firms like Facebook can manipulate peoples opinions and actions [60] . The flip side is that echo chambers act to increase the power of the corporations that create them. The recent rise in popularity of the app Tik Tok illustrates this point via what is known as a filter bubble [61]. Algorithms track the activity of users and then use the data to provide content that is tailored to what the algorithm has determined are the interests of users. This serves to enhance user engagement and enjoyment, which feeds into the power of the provider, as well as preventing users from finding new ideas, as the information and opinions they are shown only reflects their own beliefs.

Power in Medicine[edit]

Indirect Power in Medicine - Citation Bias[edit]

Power in medicine can be understood as indirect coercion. This is implemented through what is known as ‘mobilisation of bias’ where certain groups are organised within a system while other groups are excluded, thus some groups will have an advantage over others[62]. Power dynamics in medical research can be observed through citation bias in peer-reviewed journal articles. Research over the past 40 years has demonstrated that researchers cited significantly more positive references (research that supported their findings) than neutral or negative references[63][64][65][66][67].  

Gøtzche first shed light on this bias in 1987 when he investigated the references of research papers on drug trials for rheumatoid arthritis. 76 articles published on the topic before 1985 were used in the study. If they had a significantly higher proportion of positive research that supported the effectiveness of the drug tested, they were considered as having a positive bias. Of the 76 articles examined, 44 used a positive selection of references thus demonstrating that many of the researchers had favoured citing sources that supported their argument[63]. More recent studies have shown that citation bias can be observed in a range of issues in medicine from imaging research[64] to the treatment of stroke[65], and a wide range of other medical conditions[66].

There are serious implications of citation bias that gives statistically significant research more power. Greenberg (2009) found that citation bias can lead to beliefs in the medical community that are based on very little evidence[67]. The protein β-amyloid is widely believed in the medical community to be produced in the muscle fibres of those suffering from sporadic inclusion body mitosis (sIBM). This 'fact' has been critical in treatment trials for this muscle disease. Greenberg had found over 200 journal articles that accepted this 'fact', shockingly, only 6 articles were found to support the claim that β-amyloid is present in the muscle fibres of individuals with sIBM. Additionally, he found that 94% of the citations of primary data was of the positive references, while 6% where citations of articles that rejected this 'fact'[67].

Allowing positive research to hold this power may result in a skewed conclusion of the article, readers acquiring a biased list of references[63], and in the worst case, harm to a patient[64]. Although citations are designed to be an objective system in academics, it is crucial that medical researchers are aware of the indirect power they are giving to statistically significant research to avoid distortions in scientific knowledge[67].

Power in Pharmacology[edit]

Pharmacology as a field is incredibly important due to its implications in the study of drugs and human health. Throughout the discipline, there are several different strategies of power at play.

Direct Power[edit]

One example of direct power in pharmacology is the use and testing of drugs themselves. A drug is defined as a substance that will change the behaviour of affected cells[68] and so drugs directly cause actions, and directly changes the body system. Therefore, drugs, and by extension, the pharmacological researchers who manipulate them, have power of direct coercion over cells and the body of whoever takes them.

Indirect, Institutionalised Power[edit]

There are several examples of disparities within pharmacological and clinical drug studies, affecting ethnic minorities as well as other social minority groups such as women and the elderly.[69][70][71][72][73] Where certain groups are more predisposed to a disease, especially in the case of ethnic groups, race will be used as evidence for causality and will lead to institutionalised racism in the field.[71] A lack of evidence representing these minorities in regards to drug responses mean that they will often have worse health outcomes, even if treated.[69] These are examples of power as multiple strategies acting on minorities in pharmacology, as institutionalised bias against these groups also mean that they are less likely to enrol in clinical trials in the first place.[72] Indirect coercion in pharmacology therefore means there is power affecting non-decision making of these minorities.

Social Events and Power Affecting Pharmacology[edit]

When assessing social events such as the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and American president Donald Trump’s role in amplifying popularity of certain treatments, other examples of power strategies become apparent. On 19 March Trump expressed support for chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine as a drug to treat Covid-19 symptoms,[74][75] however there is distinct lack of evidence that this drug has any effect, with only limited evidence in in-vitro studies.[76][77] After Trump’s address, there was a high surge in prescription fills of the drug compared to the same time frame in 2019[75] as well as increased internet searches to purchase chloroquine.[77] The FDA also released an emergency authorisation for its use on 28 March.[78] Therefore, it is shown that high-profile figures possess the ability to increase public attention and therefore influence public decisions in regards to a drug that has not been sufficiently tested.[77] The indirect coercion of the public in this case is due to the power exerted by the president and not by pharmacological evidence; the president of a country would have more authority over public influence than researchers in pharmacology. This is due to institutionalised ideas that people are more likely to listen to a political leader than actively search for research papers themselves. To conclude, the power of social events such as this also have direct coercion over the discipline and the direction of the field of pharmacology.

Big Pharma[edit]

'Big Pharma' is a colloquial term that is used to refer to the global pharmaceutical industry. It has negative connotations relating to the widely held belief that pharmaceutical companies are driven by profit with little regard for individual rights, reinforced by the long history of fraud, scandals and lawsuits within the industry. The power of pharmaceutical companies is evident in their revenue: in 2014, global revenue was over $1 trillion USD. [79] Big Pharma contributes approximately two thirds of the annual budget of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and as such hold influence over the FDA. [80]

Power in Psychology[edit]

Use of WEIRD samples in psychological research[edit]

Currently in the top six premier APA journals 68% of the samples studied are sampled from the United States, and even more strikingly 95% of the samples used in these studies come from WEIRD countries. [81] Thus, most research published in the leading journals within the discipline of Psychology has relied on sampling WEIRD populations, being western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic populations.[82] This is a clear example of how power acts subconsciously within a discipline, and how this underlying form of power found in psychological research ultimately leads to an understanding of psychology that is incomplete and does not adequately represent humanity.[83] This unconscious bias has affected the field of psychology for many years now, one might expect that our scholarly work and editorial choices would by now reflect the knowledge that Western populations may not be representative of humans generally with respect to any given psychological phenomenon.[84] However, research published nowadays still only represents less than a 5% of the worlds population. Currently, one of the leading journals within psychology, Psychological Science, still relies mostly on Western samples and uses these data in an unreflective way to make inferences about humans in general.[85] This focus on only a 5% causes a neglection of the rest of the 95% of the world which doesn’t allow for proper research on the whole of humanity which is necessary for creating a science that truly represents the whole of humanity.[86]

We can also expand this notion of powers within psychological research to not just the sampling but also the contributors, samples, and editorial leadership of the journals of the six leading APA journals as they are predominantly American. [87] Furthermore, American psychology can no longer afford to neglect 95% of the world given that many of the problems psychology can potentially address are worse among the neglected 95% than in American society. [88]

Specifically, this form of indirect power stems from a cultural basis, or better said a disregard and stripping away of cultural context that happens most times in psychology which emphasizes instead the fundamental psychological processes being examined. Therefore, psychology must confront the bias in its broad literature toward the study of participants developing in environments unrepresentative of most of the the world’s population. [89] Interestingly, scientific research has produced thorough evidence that cultural experience is fully capable of changing biological factors. A study in examining the vision of European children versus and Moken children from the islands of Asia's Andaman Sea showed that the Moken children’s pupils would widen when underwater, while the European children’s would constrict their pupils to improve vision[90]. With this we can argue that if something as simple as visual processing can differ because of cultural differences it is unreasonable to base psychology, or behavioural science on the study of a select sample of specific background, WEIRD, and not widening the exploration to the plethora of cultures existing currently on our planet. This problem is still persistent nowadays, as the issue is no longer the acknowledgment of this problem of power but in the active push against it. However, we still see how within the discipline there is a habitual dependence on convenience sampling and the little evidence of the discipline making any meaningful movement toward drawing from diverse samples. [91]

This form of power seems to bee so intrinsic to the discipline itself as it has been present since the beginning of its creation. It clearly benefits a certain demographic and allows for a certain dominance of the field by research with a WEIRD background, as it allows for them to apply most of their research to the general populous without any explanation, as opposed to other types of research that traditionally requires much more in-depth research into sociocultural effects. At the same time, we see how this power dynamic also leads to a certain publishing bias of research regarding specific samples used in the research. Nonetheless, we see how in the past years there has been a turn in the discipline and a clear realization that wider more relevant research examining a much more diverse sampling pool and variety of cultural upbringings is essential for the advancement of the discipline.

The Power of Historical Studies within a State[edit]

George Orwell offers an all too real vision of the extensive power detained by those who diffuse historical knowledge: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”[92] Considering History is the discipline concerned with the study of past events,[93] and admitting that there exist different approaches to that study, it is apparent that the choice of approach reflects the extent to which a state desires to concentrate power. Indeed, the control of the state over the discipline of History, and as such over the diffusion of knowledge about the past, is proportional to its need of remaining an unchallenged power. In other words, the tighter the control over History as a discipline and the heavier the censorship of the past, the more power over the people a state can accumulate.[64]

The Study of History in the United States[edit]

In the United States of America, a romanticised historical narrative around the relations between colonisers and Native Americans had long been perpetuated through faulty accounts of history in textbooks and more generally historical research. In textbooks, an emphasis was often placed on the the evangelisation of the Native American people, portraying the colonisers as the Good Samaritan, while disregarding other, more violent aspects of the relationship between colonisers and Native Americans.[64] Another approach was to completely eliminate any mention of the interactions with Native Americans, thus denying their presence.[94]

A clear line can be drawn between the government's desire to legitimate its power over the American soil and the historical narrative they recounted. Indeed, acknowledging that the grim reality of colonisers arrival correlates with the countless deaths of native peoples due to the destruction of their land, war, and disease, would give them legitimate power to call for their rights to be respected. Conversely, the beginning of changes and improvements[95] made to textbooks on the History of colonisation coincided with a greater willingness to listen to native Americans' demands. [96]

Power in Fine Art[edit]

History of Power in fine art: Innovation and Patronage[edit]

Power as both direct and indirect coercion has a long history in the arts. In fine art, especially since wikipedia:neoclassicism came to dominate European academies in the mid 1700s, innovative movements struggled to find a footing in their early stages, the disruptive reputation of a novel approach being seen to challenge the power of the incumbent artistic institutions across Europe. [97] For example, during the 1860s in Paris, the Salon rejected around half of the work submitted by the contemporary impressionist painters in favour of works that conformed to the style taught at the wikipedia:Academie des Beaux-Arts, exerting its power directly to maintain dominance and sustain the neoclassical orthodoxy. [98]

During the same period leading up to the first world war, fine art as a discipline and, in turn, the art produced was heavily influenced by the tastes of the wealthy patrons commissioning the works. [99] This also helps to explain the difficulty artists faced their in allowing their more daring work to gain exposure. In this way, the societal elite enacted their power as indirect coercion to control the development of fine art, consciously or subconsciously. [100].

Power as indirect coercion in modern day artistic institutions[edit]

It could be said that power structures in the visual arts have improved in terms of attitudes to new artistic forms and the restrictive influence of the patron [101] but much progress is needed when it comes to diversity in the institutions guiding the future of the discipline. The 2015 Art Museum Staff Demographic survey, conducted in the US and funded by the Mellon Foundation, collected demographic data from members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and American Alliance of Museums (AAM). The study found that 84% of curators, conservators, educators and those in leadership roles are Non-Hispanic White compared to 4% Black and 3% Hispanic White, proportions which do not reflect the diversity of the American population. [102] Whilst these findings reveal prominent racial exclusion in the American art world, efforts are being made to reduce the strength of these power structures [103]. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New york has, for example, undergone an expansion and now exhibits a permanent collection of multicultural art with works from Africa, Latin America, Asia as well as a sizeable number by female artists.


The different notions that have been used in this article for the investigation of power (direct coercion, indirect coercion, strategy/language, multiple strategies) and have resulted in both a conceptual development of the individual notions but also, to some extent, have conceptually criticized each other. These different notions have also been tools that have allowed a further investigation of individual disciplines and their specific relationship with power.

From an interdisciplinary perspective questions have been risen about the variety of disciplines examined previously regarding specifically the people who work in the separate disciplines. This has allowed for the analysis of how systems of power have been formed between these people to create complex webs of direct and indirect power relationships, which then join together with other webs to form the power ecosystem we find currently in each one of these disciplines. This analysis has also allowed for the unpicking of what power is conceptually and how it might be understood.

Ultimately, power exists due to the idea of authority and how this authority affects behaviors in the different disciplines. We can visibly see how evidence, truth and history have a great effect of who hold this authority and its direct and indirect effects. Furthermore, we can now clearly see how notions of power, we might think of as being applied solely in social contexts, are embedded in all different types of contexts.


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