Power is a concept or phenomenon too amorphous, sprawling or chameleon-like ever to be amenable to exact identification. Where we are concerned with power, we must be satisfied to live with vagueness.*
Vagueness may be inherent, but we can’t be satisfied without attempting to make a dent in it.
We begin simply. Power is the capacity to get something done. The exercise of power often involves getting someone else to do it. How this gets accomplished is the nub. Persuasion, remuneration, guilt, obfuscation, legislation, coercion, force – the methods used suit the relationship. The ultimate goal is often obscured, it’s hard to see what is really going on. How to cooperate or resist effectively is the question, and in these times it is most often unsolved.
One small but telling indication of the current state of power relations is the fact that in this issue two of our contributors, writing about city planning and about the legal system, felt that they had to protect themselves by writing anonymously.
Power relations pervade our lives; we know we can only explore some. Here’s our start:
THE MIGHTY CANVASSER
When you hear that knock at the door or dig out that piece of political literature from your mailbox, think of the effort the volunteer canvasser makes to engage you in the greatest expression of a democratic state – the vote.
HYDRO: Getting the Power We Deserve
As we huddled under the covers in the dark and cold last December, the ice storm and its aftermath got us asking. Why was it such a massive outage? What was taking so long to fix it? Why is our system vulnerable? Who is responsible? How can we make sure this never happens again?
PROTESTING THE MEGACITY: The Activist Camera and Citizen Power
The 1990s saw widespread street protests as unions and community groups came together to fight against the cutbacks in social services that were made in a radical shift to the neo-conservative right.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Saving Wychwood Barns
Artscape Wychwood Barns is a community hub that includes arts and cultural activities, a food production and education centre, and environmental initiatives. Bringing this complex project to fruition was a long, challenging and often frustrating labour of love.
COMMUNITY CONSULTATIONS: A Fraud Detector
Faced with a developer’s unwelcome application for rezoning, a Toronto neighbourhood agreed to take part in a Working Group set up by City Hall.
EMPOWERING PARENTS: Information For Equitable Education
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” These are the wise words of Nelson Mandela and are especially important when it comes to meaningful parental engagement.
ABUSE OF POWER: The Justice System At Risk
Recently, a Toronto criminal lawyer was found guilty of ‘smuggling’ marijuana into the Don Jail. Many criminal lawyers were united in their anger with this verdict.
POLITICAL POWER: More Than Voting
Canvassing is a great way to discover your neighbourhood and understand the ideas and concerns of people in your community.
PORTUGUESE POLITICS IN THE CITY
It is often said that Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods, each with its own socioeconomic characteristics, ethnic communities, life cycles and histories. While that may be true, Toronto is also a cluster of “invisible cities”…
CASA LOMA AND THE NANO CASTLE
A video docu-tale about how we got Ontario Hydro, the world’s first publicly-owned utility.
WORKPLACE POWER: What I Learned From The Not-for-Profit World
How do not-for-profits handle power in their workplaces? Here’s the view of a long-time staffer who had bosses and has been a boss.
This past winter when Toronto experienced a power blackout due to a major ice storm, Elizabeth Cinello discovered ICE in Costa Rica.
WORLDPRIDE 2014: How We Got Here
A look back at the origin of Pride activities in Toronto and the activism and efforts that have gone into the making of WorldPride 2014.
RANDOM ACTS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
What’s happening in renewable energy advances around the world? Some surprising examples of who’s making great strides.
Some Notes on the Concept of Power,
Political Studies Vol. 11, Issue 2, 1963.