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Related: authority - Black Power - domination - hegemony - sexual power - human

A Face in the Crowd (1957) - Elia Kazan
image sourced here. [Aug 2005]

Definition (sociology)

Sociologists usually define power as the ability to impose one's will on others, even if those others resist.

More generally, it can be defined as the real or perceived ability or potential to bring about significant change, usually in people’s lives through the actions of others.

The exercise of power seems to be endemic to people as social and gregarious beings. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_(sociology)

Will to Power

Every human action, according to Nietzsche, is born of a basic instinct to exercise one's own power in some way. Gift-giving, love, praise, or harmful acts such as physical violence, carrying tales, etc. all stem from the same unconscious motive: to exert the will. The theory of the will to power is not limited to the psychology of human beings. Instead, it is the essential nature of the living universe, manifest in all things. Growth, survival, dominance in business or physical competition, all are seen as elements of this will. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche


One of the least contestable features of postmodernism is its refusal to accept the hierarchy of value and élitism implied in the distinction between high culture and popular culture. --Julie Stephens

Identity [...]

An identity based on power never has to develop a sense of itself as responsible, it has no sense of its limits except as those are perceived in opposition to others. The blankness of the identity of empire covers an ambivalence which is often unconscious, and which, consequently, can most readily be perceived in the representations it creates of the colonial "other" (Pajaczkowska & Young, 1992, p. 202).

Aesthetics of power

Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Power - Lutz Koepnick [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"Walter Benjamin and the Aesthetics of Power explores Walter Benjamin's seminal writings on the relationship between mass culture and fascism. The book offers a nuanced reading of Benjamin's widely influential critique of aesthetic politics, while it contributes to current debates about the cultural projects of Nazi Germany, the changing role of popular culture in the twentieth century, and the way in which Nazi aesthetics have persisted into the present."--Card catalog description

John Armitage: But what about the cultural dimensions of chronostrategy? For instance, although modernist artists such as Marinetti suggested to us that 'war is the highest form of modern art', Walter Benjamin warned us against the 'aestheticization' of war in his famous essay in Illuminations (1968) on 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction'. Additionally, in your The Aesthetics of Disappearance (1991 [1980]), you make several references to the relationship between war and aesthetics. To what extent do you think that the Kosovo War can or should be perceived in cultural or aesthetic terms?

Paul Virilio: First of all, if I have spoken of a link between war and aesthetics, it is because there is something I am very interested in and that is what Sun Tzu in his ancient Chinese text calls The Art of War. This is because, for me, war consists of the organisation of the field of perception. But war is also, as the Japanese call it, 'the art of embellishing death'. And, in this sense, the relationship between war and aesthetics is a matter of very serious concern. Conversely, one could say that religion — in the broadest sense of the word — is 'the art of embellishing life'. Thus, anything that strives to aestheticise death is profoundly tragic. But, nowadays, the tragedy of war is mediated through technology. It is no longer mediated through a human being with moral responsibilities. It is mediated through the destructive power of the atomic bomb, as in Stanley Kubrick's film, Dr Strangelove.

Now, if we turn to the war in Kosovo, what do we find? We find the manipulation of the audience's emotions by the mass media. Today, the media handle information as if it was a religious artefact. In this way, the media is more concerned with what we feel about the refugees and so on rather than what we think about them. Indeed, the truth, the reality of the Kosovo War, was actually hidden behind all the 'humanitarian' faces. This is a very different situation from the one faced by General Patton and the American army when they first encountered the concentration camps at the end of the Second World War. Then, it was a total and absolute surprise to find out that what was inside the concentration camps was a sea of skeletons. What is clear to me, therefore, is that while the tragedy of war grinds on, the contemporary aesthetics of the tragedy seem not only confused but, in some way, suspicious. --http://www.ctheory.net/text_file.asp?pick=132 [Aug 2004]

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