Online Custom «The Concept of Power and Its Relation to Freedom» Essay Sample
The appetite for power is inherent in the human species. Power revolves around the ability to influence an outcome of an event geared towards achieving the desired objective and/or influence another agent to choose and act against their wishes. To illustrate this, consider a young boy of around three in a supermarket with his father. The boy wants an expensive toy that the father has not budgeted for and is unwilling to purchase. The boy starts crying and rolling on the floor, attracting the attention of other shoppers. In dealing with the unwanted public attention, the father ends up buying the toy to calm the child. Power is evidenced in that the boy exercises his volition to have the toy and influences the outcome by making the father buy the toy against his will. The boy can be said to have exercised power over the father because he has managed to alter his will. The essay illustrates the exercise of power as an enhancement of freedom of the agent using the power and assault on the freedom of the agent over which the power is exercised.
Freedom as we know it today does not and cannot exist in any absolute form. Freedom only exists relative to an agent's desires and the ability to meet those desires (Atlee, & Atlee, 2016). People mainly become conscious of freedom as a result of the gaps separating their desires and the ability to satisfy them. Otherwise, freedom can only be viewed as a political issue. Real freedom has been defined as the ability to satisfy our desires, which makes it intimately related to power that involves the exercise of volition. True freedom only exists in the presence of three inseparable aspects. Awareness is the first aspect of real freedom which entails recognition and knowledge of desires and the possibilities of fulfilling or expressing them. The second aspect is the “freedom to” which is the availability of opportunities and means to satisfy the recognized desires. “Freedom from” is the third element and the one most affected by power. “Freedom from” demands the absence of coercion, restrictions, force, persuasion, manipulation and other factors such as incentives that block self-determined desire realization (Atlee & Atlee, 2016). The factors restricting the third aspect of freedom are the only factors under which power can be exercised.
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Power exists in two primary forms: reserved/ inactive/latent power and deployed/active/manifested power (Grigsby, 2014). Regardless of the form, power influences and affects the third aspect of real freedom. For instance, a nation may desire and be able to satisfy its desires, but refrain from acting upon them due to the fear of another state that possesses latent but greater power. The government fails to fulfill its desires through the exercise of power due to the fear that another more powerful agent might activate its potential power. The difference in the levels of power possessed influences the form in which various agents exercise power.
Force is one of the primary forms in which power is commonly exercised. The exercise of power through force always involves physical means. The most emphasized form of power exercised through force involves physical violence. However, physical force as a form of power exercise cannot be limited to violence; physical obstruction with the absence of violence helps exercise power through force (Grigsby, 2014). Physical violence involves conducting war to force another agent to align to your volition. In case war or violence cannot be used against an agent, either because of the possibility of an escalation of violence or because the agent is more potent, physical obstruction is adopted. Boycotts, a revolution like the one Egypt and Tunisia experienced, or trade restrictions and isolation the likes of which Russia continues to suffer are examples of how power can be exercised in the form of force without violence.
Consider the war in Iraq as an illustration of how power exercised through force enhances the freedom of the agent exercising it while undermining the freedom of the agent over whom power is exercised. The 9/11 attack on the United States was among the major reasons behind the invasion of Iraq. Terrorists used the attack as a way to satisfy their desires and exercise power through force over the United States. The vivid memories of 9/11 attack motivated the United States to demand that Saddam Hussein allow American specialists inspection of his country to confirm that no weapon of mass destruction was being manufactured. Iraq did not directly harbor al-Qaeda, but the thought of them possessing a weapon of mass destruction and the possibility of them being shared with terrorists made the United States exercise power through force over Iraq.
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The lack of substantial evidence that Iraq was harboring terrorists and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction gave the nation the freedom to say no to foreign inspection. The determination of Saddam and the Iraqi people to exercise the third aspect of freedom was met with the full force of the United States military. On the one hand, the United States were exercising power using force to enhance and protect the freedom of the citizens to stay safe from terrorist attacks. On the other hand, Iraq desired to stay a sovereign nation without the influence of foreign powers and the ability to meet those desires was violated by the American military. Freedom is comprised of the awareness of desires and the ability to meet those desires. Consequently, it can be argued that United States' invasion of Iraq enhanced their freedom while undermining the freedom of the Iraqi people.
Apart from force, power can also be exercised through manipulation. Manipulation involves the exercise of power on an agent while concealing the motivation and intention of the power exercised. The agent over whom power is exercised does not experience the power and is unaware that it exists. Even when the exercise of authority in the form of manipulation is successful, the agent over whom power was exercised does not realize that power was used (Grigsby, 2014). The implication is disturbing because you cannot resist something that you don’t even know exists. The positive side of the exercise of power in the form of manipulation is that it can work effectively when applied to an agent at a higher level of power by an agent at a lower level of power and vice versa. The hidden nature of manipulation makes it hard to prove and pinpoint. The person exerting it goes to lengths to be oblique because if the person over whom it is exercised becomes aware, the plan backfires.
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Boko Haram in Nigeria provides a perfect example of how successfully power can be exercised in the form of manipulation. The recruiting strategy of the group capitalizes on the narrative that the government is weak and corrupt. Religious teachers manipulate the teachings of the Islam religion, making vulnerable youths join the group believing that they are fighting infidels in a holy war. The extremist leaders exercise power through manipulation over youths by capitalizing on their ignorance of religion. Unemployment, illiteracy, and weak family structures make the youth more vulnerable to manipulation. The radicalized members of the extremist group do not realize that they have been manipulated or that power has been exercised over them (Yaffe, 2003). They believe they are exercising their volition through religion. The willingness of the members to die proves how powerful and devastating the exercise of power through manipulation can get.
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The intention and desires to fight the government and establish an Islamic state in Nigeria are not shared with the youth before they are radicalized. The desires and the ability to meet the desire of learning the sound doctrine of religion get undermined and assaulted by religious teachers who have entirely different intentions. Consequently, the Boko Haram leaders enhance their freedom or what we would call desires and the ability to meet those desires of establishing an Islamic state. Coercion and manipulation, on the other hand, undermine the freedom of the victims. Manipulation undermines freedom because manipulators track the compliance of the victims unlike a free will religion where compliance is not compulsory. The victims lack the freedom to leave the group because they are made to believe that the only way out is through death (Yaffe, 2003). Such level of power exercised through manipulation undermines the freedom to a life of the victim while enhancing the freedom of a crooked religion.
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In conclusion, it is evidenced that freedom and power cannot be enjoyed in absolute isolation one from the other. Greater power creates a greater freedom for the agent who exercises it while reducing the freedom of the agent on whom the power is exercised. Controlled freedom must be used to set boundaries limiting the extent to which different forms of power can be exercised. The pervasiveness of power influences freedom because any form of power exercise can either be used for coercion or liberation. An agent with supreme power at either individual or country level must always exercise it with awe-inspiring accountability, being mindful of the freedom of those over whom they exercise the power.
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