A Very Brief Essay on Political Power and Inequality

At the bottom of most of the political and social issues people are upset about these days is a concept that is not often discussed: power.

As an analogy, consider a large, heavy SUV the engine of which has been replaced by a lawnmower engine. Obviously, the latter does not have enough power to move the vehicle. Power in this sense is a physical concept, the ability to do a task. 

In physics, it can be defined precisely and mathematically. In human affairs, this cannot be done so precisely, but if one looks at real situations, it is not difficult to see. Some individuals, and groups, can get done what they want done, but others can’t. There are many factors which govern power inequalities, so it is a complex subject, but these inequalities are not difficult to identify if you keep this issue in mind.

Something that is immediately involved in human power issues that is not found in the physics of vehicle engines, etc., is justice. SUV and lawnmower engines don’t quarrel over justice, but people do constantly. As soon as an inequality between the power levels of individuals or groups is noted, the question of whether this inequality is just or not, whether it should or should not exist, arises. And this leads to the question: if it is unjust, what can be done about it?

qedd© Jon Johanning 2011