Psychological Power

By: Humaira Mujib  

Power is generally considered top-down and usually seen as coercive, manipulative and systemic. Coercive power is patronizing, where all the resources and decisions lie with the leaders, as seen between parents and children. Manipulating power brings to center the structural inequalities whereby the leaders bring only safe agendas to the table to politically manipulate their own interests. Systemic power is dominating whereby the leaders shape the thoughts of the subjects. All these three dimensions of power reside in the identity of a leader. However, Foucault argues that identity power is ubiquitous lying with both the leader and the follower. Foucauldian take of power is normative used to discipline human beings to live according to the societal expectations. People follow the societal expectations blindly but challenge it when inequality results in their sufferings: physical and emotional. In this way Foucault sees power as a disciplining and resisting force. Foucauldian normative (fourth dimensional) power envelops all the other three dimensions but is underdeveloped (Clegg, et al., 2006). The present research argues that Foucault’s power is underdeveloped in its psychological understanding; for example, a king due to his psychological power of being a king can exercise coercive, manipulative and systemic power. Similarly, human beings sufferings make them resist power initially at a psychological level and then at a physical level by using all the three dimensions. I call psychological power, the fifth dimension of power to understand its implications for organizations as seen in a power struggle between the management and employees.

Power Struggle, Employees
Change Management
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Humaira Mujib

My area of research is organisational learning and change as seen through the lens of identity. My research interest is to understand unconscious emotions behind apparent rational behaviour that form the basis of politics and resistance. Aligned with Foucauldian understanding I am interested to perceive human struggles beneath the existing order of things. I, however, also believe the resolution of struggles in a space of social justice created through a holding environment of trust and understanding. My interest is also in the domain of sociology where human freedom and progress need an engagement with our sense of responsibility. For me, freedom and responsibility are a necessary condition to realise progress. It depicts the ontological position of human goodness that is where truth is a process and not bound in ideological struggles.