Victoria Shackelford, MFA. MA. PhD
Licensed Professional Counselor
210.602.3002 & 512.461.9544
Part II The Kinds of Power
The psychologist and author Rollo May (1909-1994) in his 1972 book, Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence, lays out a compelling argument for investigating a relationship between power, powerlessness, violence and innocence
In Part I of this review of May’s book, we described five developmental movements that exist as potentialities in every human, community, nation and society: 1) the power to be; 2) self-affirmation; 3) self-assertion; 4) aggression and 5) violence (May, pp. 40-44).
In Part II of this dialogue we explore five kinds of power: 1) exploitative, 2) manipulative, 3) competitive, 4) nutrient, 5) integrative as essential for human development and psychological movement
Emily Dickinson poem supports May’s concept of power as the source of being alive.
To be alive is power,
Existing in itself,
Without a further function,
(As cited in May, 1972, p. 99)
May defines power as …”the ability to cause or prevent change” (p.99), with two dimensions; actuality and potentiality. In describing the five kinds of power, May says he is referring to actuality
- Exploitative power is the most destructive kind of power. Exploitative power is power over others using force. There is no choice on the part of the other, ie sexual violence, murder, slavery etc. ( May, pp.105-106)
- Manipulative power is also power over others but without physical force. The con man and even the ‘operant conditioning’ as developed by B.F. Skinner based on research with animals. May writes that Skinner’s manipulative condition is based on his own lack of personal power therefore exposes his ‘need to control’ (May, pp.106-107).
- Competitive power is power against another. May writes that this kind of power can be if one goes up the other must go down, as in any kind of rivalry. This kind of power can be constructive giving vitality and stimulation to human relationships, communities, and nations, such as sports competitions (May, pp. 107-108).
- Nutrient power is the power for others as in caring for children, teaching young people and being a statesmanship. This is power that gives energy to the concerns for the well-being of a family, community, and nations ( May, pp. 108-109).
- Integrative power is power that is ‘with’ the other person. “I support you and am with you in your struggle.” is the power that is ‘with’ the other (May, pp.109-111). Look at the support of certain political leaders (Bernie Sanders) and (Donald Trump) and especially moral leaders like Martin Luther King. Their supporters are integrated into each of these men’s political ideals and way of being potent and powerful in the world. Their supporters are actually a part of these men’s energetic makeup as they run for political office or lead social and cultural movements.
May writes that each of these kinds of power are present in each of us through our lives and our struggle is to discriminate how we use each of these powers to the situations we find ourselves in through out our lives (May, pp. 112-113).
May warns us that, “ violence occurs when a person cannot live out his needs for power in normal ways” (May, p. 116).