Friday, January 19, 2007

Power as Simplification

Just been in a talk by Arild Vatn on Institutional approaches to Biodiversity, and one of the many interesting points that came up was the reducing nature of power, so I'm blogging it before I forget it.

One slide in the talk presented a 3-dimensional figure, breaking the nature of diversity into 3 axes: Rationality (does "thinking" take place at a social, or an individual level?), Human interaction (do we determine things through discussion or through calculation?) and the Nature of a Public Good (e.g. can a market be used to manage it, or does complexity require more collective choices?)

The point was made that "power" tends to lead to the simpler end of all three of these: namely, it establishes a more calculative decision-making mechanism, which mostly goes hand in hand with a more simplistic, less complex nature of the good. This leads on to more power on behalf of the individual as less communication is needed, and vice versa.

Personally, I'm not convinced just yet, and have a feeling this may come down to the definition of power and the nature/context of the talk influencing it. If you assume that power is like energy and, rather than being created and destroyed, is merely shuffled around, then the effect of "power" is merely defined as to your own perspective. Still, the idea may have use as a definition of power under a Western economy, so it's worth noting down.

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