How Value-Neutral is the concept of Power?
- December 21, 2016
- Posted by: Reena Saxena
- Category: Behavior Management
WHAT IS POWER?
The dictionary defines power as the
‘ability or capacity to do something in a particular way’.
Going by this, every living being possesses power of some kind.
- Physical power
- Knowledge power
- Power of hierarchy
- Special abilities either gifted by nature, or developed with meditation. These are often termed as supernatural powers. Actually, they might arise from awakening of certain parts of the brain, which are dormant in the majority of living beings.
- Power of wealth
- Power of information
- Power of research
- Power of a certain approach
- Power of experience
- Power of creativity
The comparatives drawn converted power to a sense of superiority over others. The definition then shifts to
‘the ability to do something better than others’.
It leaves each person free to develop and use their power in the social structure that they live in.
INTENT AND APPLICATION OF POWER
How do people intend to use their power? Power is used for self-defence by both animals and human beings, and it can be justified on the grounds, that self-preservation is the first instinct of life. Power is also used to protect and defend the weak.
I had the pleasure of bringing up three beautiful kittens in my house for 5 months, as their mother deemed it to be a safe place. We watched her training the babies to jump, climb trees and perform several other actions. On certain nights, she would bring a rat in her mouth, and call out with a different sound. Not wanting a dead rat to be devoured on the living room carpet, we never opened the door. As they grew up, the neighbors in the building started complaining of the ruckus the hyperactive trio created. The mother had given birth to another brood, and had lost interest in this trio. We sent them to a friend’s farm house, where they could grow up in open spaces. They had to be sedated and packed in a basket, before they were driven off. It was a heart-wrenching use of power.
The first night saw them frightened and huddled together, as they saw the last familiar figure of the driver disappear from the farm. Their bed and meal-bowls were all sent with them. On the next morning, the friend who owned the farmhouse, found a dead rat on the window sill. Their natural instincts had taken over, and they managed to kill the rat. But they had carefully placed it out of way, not knowing that this is a meal. Meals for them, were served in a bowl. We had interfered with their life-skill learning process, by not letting their mother in, on those nights. The separation was traumatic for me, and I still nurse a feeling of guilt on having let them go. My husband maintains that we acted in their best interest, by giving them a better habitat to grow and live in.
Here, creeps in the question of Intent. And situations are far more complex than the story of my kittens.
- Is it for the greater good of the world?
- Is it in line with the principles of Human Rights and Animal Rights?
When is Power deemed to corrupt? It starts when the intent and application are not determined by the larger good of the larger section of life in the world. Power used for aggrandisement of personal gains may be acceptable, as long as it does not hurt the interest of another.
A conflict of interest is where Power starts assuming a negative form, and the concept of Values comes in. It is actually the Intent and Application of Power that generate controversies, not the concept of Power on its own.
VALUE-NEUTRALITY OF POWER
‘Values are principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life.’
Judgement is a subjective matter, hence, cannot be always assumed to align to the highest standard of ethics.
Value neutrality does not imply not having a personal value system. It just implies the non-application of a personal approach, to a larger platform. It is often discussed in the context of social sciences, politics and scientific research.
The principle of ‘larger good of humanity or living beings’ is a value, which leads us to infer that application of Power needs to be held in check. Else, the actions are likely to be guided by ‘larger interest of those who hold Power’.
A value has been applied. The application of power, thus, cannot be value-neutral.
Power, merely, treated as a physical or sublime force that can move something, is not subject to values, unless, it is wielded by a human being.