I was moved to hunt up this passage from a book by Rollo May, "Power and Innocence," from a discussion still going over at bfp's (see here for context, if you like). It seems worth a separate discussion in a post of its own, so here 'tis.
3. Kinds of Power.
A. Exploitative. This is the simplest and, humanly speaking, most destructive kind of power. It is subjecting persons to whatever use they may have to the one who holds the power. Slavery, of course, is the obvious example…Exploitative power identifies power with force. In pioneer America the use of bullets to transform others into lifeless hulks…fall into this category….
In everyday life this kind of power is exercised by those who have been radically rejected, whose lives are so barren that they know no other way of relating to other people except exploitation. It is even sometimes rationalized as the “masculine” way of dealing with women sexually…
Exploitative power always presupposed violence or the threat of violence. In this kind of power there is, strictly speaking, no choice or spontaneity at all on the part of the victims.
[Ed., my own note: the picture of the young woman standing down the tanks in Oaxaca i think contradicts this a bit, as do the choices of nonviolent protestors who risk their lives for principles everywhere; so then even there, choice IS possible; it’s just a very drastic choice and one that it is unlikely that most people are going to make. But I think what he’s saying is that there is, unlike the next example, no “contract” at all with the oppresser, even in a very stacked and unfair and dishonest way].
B. Manipulative. This is power over another person. Manipulative power may have been originally invited by the other person’s desperation or anxiety…
…Skinner [famous pioneer of “operant conditioning,” worked with rats and pigeons, a very mechanistic approach to psychology] is himself a living illustration of the individual who does not consciously confront his own power needs. He calls them the “passion to control.” For instance, in his book “Walden Two,”…the hero, speaks to his pigeons, “Behave, damn you! Behave as you ought!”
…It is often pointed out that the Germans, in the years before 1933, were in such a state of economic hopelessness and anxiety about their future that they succumbed to the manipulative power of Hitler in the hopes of assuaging their anxiety…
C. Competitive. The third kind of power is power -against- another. In its negative form, it consists of one person going -up- not because of anything he does or any merit he has, but because his opponent goes -down.-
…The chief criticism of this kind of power is its parochialism: it continually shrinks–although not as drastically as manipulation–the area of human community in which one lives.
But at this point we note a very interesting shift from desctructive to constructive power. For competition can give zest and vitality to human relations. I refer to the kind of rivalry that is stimulating and constructive. A football game…
It is worthwhile to remind ourselves that the great [Greek dramas] were produced in competition. The implication is that it is not competition itself that is destructive but only the -kind- of competitive power.
The competition between nations…in the race to the moon or [the Olympics; here he uses the example of capitalistic competition of cheaper and better technology, which, i think one could really spin off into a whole ‘nother argument] drains a great deal of tension that would otherwise go into warfare…
To have someone -against- you is notnecessarily a bad thing; at least he is not over you or under you, and accepting his rivalry may bring out dormant capacities in you.
D. Nutrient. This is power -for- the other. It is perhaps best illustrated by the parent’s care for his…[aha, here and only here, i note, does May use “his or her;” anyway, moving right along…] children. …Obviously a good deal of this kind of power is necessary in relations with friends and loved ones. It is the power that is given by one’s care for the other…At its best, teaching is a good example.
Statesmanship [i’d say “leadership,” here] again at its best, also shows an element of nutrient power….Nutrient power comes out of a concern for the welfare of the group for which the [leader] carries responsibility. It is the constructive aspect of political and diplomatic power.
E. Integrative. The fifth kind of power is -with- the other person. My power then -abets- my neighbor’s power.
…I was tempted to call this kind of power “cooperative,” but I realized it too often begins with the “victim” having to be co-opted into the co-operation. Our narcissism is forever crying out against the wounds of those who would criticize us or point out our weak spots. We forget that the critic may be doing us a considerable favor. Certainly criticisms are often painful, and one has to brace one’s self in the face of them. We can slide back into manipulative power (by forcefully silencing the critic) or competitive power (by making the critic look silly). Or we can even protect our thin skins by use of nutrient power (patronizing the critic by implying he is confused and needs our care). But if we do regress in these ways, we are losing an oppprtunity for new truth that the questioner, hostile or friendly as the case may be, may well be giving us…
Integrative power, as I have said, can lead to growth by Hegel’s dialectic process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. All growth, even that of molecular structures, proceeds in this way: there is one body, then there is its anti-body, and growth proceeds by the attraction or repulsion of these into a new body.
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., illustrates integrative power in his description of the effect of nonviolence on his opponents. He states that his method “has a way of disarming the opponent. It exposes his moral defenses. It weakens his morale and at the same time works on his conscience. He just doesn’t know how to handle it.”
No one can deny that King is describing a kind of power. It depends for its success not only on the courage of the nonviolent ones, but also on the moral development and awareness of the persons who are the recipients of the nonviolent power…
Nonviolent power depends on memory, which in turn depends on the moral development of the persons against whom this kind of power is directed. The opponent has to live with himself, and Gandhi and King put him in the position of having to remember that he has injured them. …Man is the curious being who is afflicted by memory. If he cannot integrate his memories into his self-image, he must pay for his behavior by neurosis or psychosis; and he tries, generally in vain, to shake himself free of the tormenting memories.
[My note: and i see that working on the collective as well as the individual level. I suspect May does as well].
…first…nonviolence does not involve any blocking off of awareness. Second, it does not involve the renouncing of responsibility. Third, its purpose is not to gain something for the individual himself but for his community…
When it is authentic, nonviolence has a religious dimension, since by its very nature it transcends the human forms of power. It seems to be the fact, however, that for every authentic form of nonviolent power there are dozens of unauthentic attempts to claim the role.”
[…and now, the punchline:]
“These five different kinds of power are obviously all present in the same person at different times….The goal of human development is to learn to use these different kinds of power in ways adequate to the given situation.”