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Seeing institutions in different ways
Seeing institutions in different ways

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3.1 Power

‘Power’ is a concept without which institutions as sets of rules and norms cannot be properly understood: power to make the rules, power to question and break them, power to establish the norms. The same point can be made about institutions as sets of meanings and values: the power to bring in new meanings, the power conferred by meaning to resist such interventions, the power to establish what is right and – no less critically – what is wrong. And, as Hulme shows, it is a concept without which we cannot see and understand the actions and interactions of the big players.

The picture presented in Box 4 will give you a sense of the way in which power – interestingly (and unusually) as a process rather than something people possess – works:

Box 4 Power

Like knowledge, power is not simply possessed, accumulated and unproblematically exercised. ... Power implies much more than how hierarchies and hegemonic control demarcate social positions and opportunities, and restrict access to resources. It is the outcome of complex struggles and negotiations over authority, status, reputation and resources, and necessitates the enrolment of networks of actors and constituencies. ... Such struggles are founded upon the extent to which specific actors perceive themselves capable of manoeuvring within particular situations and developing effective strategies for doing so. Creating room for manoeuvre implies a degree of consent, a degree of negotiation and thus a degree of power, as manifested in the possibility of exerting some control, prerogative, authority and capacity for action, be it front-stage or back-stage, for flickering moments or for more sustained periods. ... Thus, as Scott (1985) points out, power inevitably generates resistance, accommodation and strategic compliance as regular components of the politics of everyday life.

(Long, 2001, p. 71)

In its own way – it is highly abstract – this is as rich a picture as that offered by Hulme, one that will help you appreciate the politics of institutional development.