Empowerment Starts Here

This site is dedicated to the professional and academic work of Dr. Angela Dye.

Talking Politics– Unconventionally

For anyone interested in why I use the words politics and political to discuss power dynamics, it might help to read a piece that I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Inc. While I will provide a short excerpt below, you are encouraged to click here to read the article in full.

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In her work, Janks (2012) talked politics in terms of Politics and politics. Through this differentiation, she discussed the consciousness that people have of Politics (notice the emphasis on the capital letter P) and therefore are vigilant of its impact. This consciousness and therefore vigilance is lost in politics (notice the emphasis on the small letter p), as people do not frame the dynamics of this form of politics as political.

In short, Janks said that politics (small letter p) is “about the micro-politics of everyday life… about the minute-by-minute choices and decisions that make us who we are…about the politics of identity and place…about small triumphs and defeats… (and) it is about winners and losers, haves and have-nots” (p. 151). This scope of politics as opposed to capital P politics is very different. In capital P politics, Janks said that we focus on government, world trade agreements, and global capitalism (p. 151). While the full list of capital P politics extended beyond these three ideas, her contrast between the two was stark as I began to understand politics as dynamic, uncontained, and nuanced.

To better understand the critical nature of personal power as another form of politics (lowercase p), I want to briefly share another researcher that I encountered. Where Janks talked about politics, Gaventa (2006) talked about power. Gaventa explained power in three dimensions: overt, covert and latent. Overt power is connected to public decision making channels and is fairly disclosed and inclusive. Covert power is connected to public and private decision making channels but is deceptive, selective and exclusive. Unlike the first two dimensions, latent power has no public or private means of decision making. Latent power is internal. It is psychological. Due to extreme or historical patterns that occur in the first two dimensions, latent power is embedded at the personal level and is disguised as individual choice (or lack thereof), individual effort (or lack thereof), and individual responsibility (or lack thereof).

Because this third dimension makes some uncomfortable, as it is difficult to measure and difficult to link to the first two, I found value in Gaventa’s work. His research has been devoted to making connections between latent power and overt and covert power as well as providing empirical evidence of its existence. As a result, I have included his findings of the third dimension in with Janks’s small-p discussion of politics. Without understanding and addressing psychological influences of power (and powerlessness), we cannot talk about personal politics and frankly we should not talk about public politics either. So, my treatment of lowercase-p politics, in addition to uppercase-P politics, deals with the negotiation and treatment of power as public, private and psychological decision making.

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2020 by in Uncategorized.
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