Levels of power

In today’s world, power is increasingly seen as multi-layered and multi-polar – that is, it is found across various levels and amongst state and non-state actors. While once power might have been understood in relationship to a particular place or territory, not is able to move across local, national and global levels.  There is a great deal of academic debate on how globalization is affecting how we understand power. For a summary of the debates read the handout on Academic Debates on Levels of Power in a globalized world. While power, it is argued, can operate at many levels, for activists and scholars alike there have long been debates on which level of power is most important to address.

There are some that argue that changing power in practice must begin locally, as it is in the arenas of everyday life in which people are able to act. Others argue for the importance of the nation state, and how it mediates power, suggesting that the nation state is still the main crucible of power and public authority. Increasingly those who focus on globalization argue that supra-national bodies are more important, replacing local and national arenas in their importance.  Others argue that change must begin more at the household or personal level, not just in the layers of decision making found in government. To read more about intimate and private spaces see the other approaches of power section of this website.

In the powercube, we often recognize that what is going on at all levels are potentially significant and therefore argue for considering them all, and their interrelationship.  In the powercube, we often have included the global, national and local, or alternatively the supra-national, the national and the sub-national levels of power as the starting point, recognizing that the spectrum can in fact be much broader. And, while these distinctions can apply to levels of governmental decision making, they can equally apply to other transnational organizations, such as international NGOs, multinational corporations, or social movements.

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