A Critical Synthesis
So far this semester we have laid out a general framework to help us understand the concepts of community and power and how they relate. We have now reached the time where we need to expand on those ideas and increase our knowledge of how to apply this information to the real world outside of hypothetical classroom discussion. However, before we move too far ahead, I think we should step back and draw some connections between a few of our readings and analyze the connections or disconnections that may exist between them. In order to analyze some of these things, I have chosen to focus on Warren “Older and Newer Approaches to Community”, Sadan “Empowerment Spreads/Theories of Community” and Winders “Roller Coaster of Class Conflict”.
Warren outlines the various aspects that make up a community such as people, space, shared institutions and values, and distribution of power. In addition to talking about what physically makes up your community, this article discusses what makes up your sense of community. A sense of community can involve things such as comfort, ownership, and racial and gender patterns. The Sadan article takes a more focused approach and outlines the different dimensions of power within these communities. The author differentiates these dimensions by discussing who the main power players are and who is affected by those in power. The last article, Winders, outlines the various things that affect voter turnout such as social movements, conflict and consolidation between classes, and individual characteristics.
The Warren article stresses the idea that reliance on community differs from person to person. As a general rule of thumb, individuals with less personal resources tend to rely on their community more than others. If the community does not provide for these individuals, they often do not have personal or financial means to get the resources for themselves. When comparing this piece of writing to the Sadan article I found myself drawing an unfortunate connection. Individuals with less resources are generally categorized under Sadan’s second or third dimensions of power. The second dimension is more of a covert power dynamic where individuals do not realize power is being exerted over them. The power dynamic in the third dimension involves group A being dominated by group B, but group B is accepting of this domination because they are convinced it is in their best interests. Individuals with lower resources within a community are members of group B in the previous example. The unfortunate connection I drew was that individuals with less resources are taken advantage of by those in higher power and their lack of resources is used against them. These individuals are, in a sense, punished for having less personal means to survive by elite groups exerting power over them and using that power to make decisions that are in the best interests of the elites and not those who are not in power. As unfortunate as this cycle is, it is almost inevitable that it will occur. Although those with less resources can band together with their shared interests and values or their social system, even a combined effort will never give them enough power to overthrow the elites using this current system.
I drew another connection when reading the Winders article and thinking about all of the things that can affect voter turnout in an area. Upon reading the previous paragraph, one might propose that voter turnout should be higher for groups with less resources because voting is one source of power the group can exert and therefore should use it to their advantage. However, this is not the case. In general, individuals with higher SES and greater mobility are more likely to vote, neither of which are characteristics of lower resource groups. In addition, lower resource groups are often lower class individuals and low class individuals tend to vote less on average. The low voter turnout for low resource groups leads me to draw a connection between the power that is executed over them and the will to vote. Because these groups are subject to a great deal of power from other groups they are not accustomed to using their own voices and votes to gain control. This lack of confidence in your ability to make change leads to non-involvement because of fear or weakness. Being afraid to attempt to make change does nothing but strengthen the cycle that already exists and leave lower resource groups to fend for themselves in a world where elites hold the power.
These articles lack information or advice on how to change these established connections. While they may suggest general guidelines to help more equally distribute power, there is still work to be done to establish a plan that can easily be put into action. Winders gives some suggestions as to how to voter turnout could be affected by changes to policies and regulations, but the problem is there is no universal answer. There is no universal solution. Much more thought and research needs to be put into analyzing these arguments in order to make substantial change.
In order to stop the inevitable, you have to do the unthinkable. To stop the current cycle and more evenly distribute power to all groups, lower resource groups need to reestablish their voices. However, they cannot accomplish this goal alone. Those who hold more power and have greater control over a community need to step back and acknowledge that individuals within communities are becoming more and more reliant on the resources the community provides and that these individuals need to be treated with respect. We should not punish those with less power by taking away what little power they do have. Instead we should help them by reestablishing some of their power and treating them as equal community members.
A Critical Synthesis