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Forget everything else, think about power.

The study of economics arise because humans have


unlimited wants but resources are limited. As a result, people are compelled to give up one want over
the other and this phenomena is also known as a trade-off.

No one could possibly have all the power they want. I can have, for example, a visitors permit to
another country in exchange that I follow the rules in that country. Let me make a related observation
the observation that no one could possibly have one thing without giving up another: I know that in
order to get pocket money from my parents, I have to give up my Friday evenings to have dinner with
them. The main question of this paper concerns whether power is a major factor in the decisions we
make every day. In what follows, I am going to spell out an argument in favor of the view that power can
explain everything that we learned in CSI from inequality to family and even why we think racially.
Forget our study of inequality, markets or the city, we can now explain everything in terms of power.
The key idea of my argument will be that power is an underlying driving force for each social
phenomena that we see; I will explain the meaning of this jargon in due course.
Here is an outline of the argument that I will ultimately endorse in favor of the conclusion that power
can explain everything that we learned in CSI.
(1) Social phenomena, in general, happen because people influence or are influenced by the
decisions others make around them.
(2) Power is a key factor in why people make decisions.

(3) Therefore, in every case, the power we have over others and vice versa must have caused all
these social phenomena we talk about in CSI.

Power is defined as the ability or right to control people or things and a social phenomenon is defined
as an observable fact or event that relates to people or society in general. (Merriam Webster)
Firstly, I will begin to assess the claim that social phenomena arise because individuals respond and
react to stimulus from others around them. In our first CSI session, we were introduced to Richard
Wilkinson of University of Nottingham who confirmed the idea that economic inequality harms societies
more than it benefits them.(CSI Lesson Plan 1). The poor might be inclined to steal to meet his or her
daily needs, and the rich might abuse the poor in order to feed his greed. From experience we know and
probably have met people who have acted out of their circumstances and this observation is different
from what we typically think of why people make decision. To us, we perceive them to have little or no
power over what they do, but to others it might seem that they are behaving properly within the
confines of the institution. Therefore, the negative consequences of inequality must arise due to some
external force that is beyond the individual. We are influenced by the decisions we make and the
decisions others make.
Secondly, I will assess the notion that power has a strong influence the way we behave, which includes
the way we think, the decisions we make and the responsibilities we hold in our daily life. Zimbardos
prison experiment illustrates this idea perfectly. (Youtube Zimbardon CSI Lesson Plan) When the
participants accepted their role either as officer or prisoner, the ones in power began abusing the
prisoners. In turn, the ones subjugated to the power of the officer began to turn passive. The
experiment is surprising because we learned that human behavior is largely dictated by the situation we
are in rather than our inherent dispositions. To a large extent, this change in behavior is attributed to
the imbalance of power that the officers have over the prisoners. The power they have offers them the
ability to control or torture the prisoners with a sense of legitimacy. Similarly, my parents have the
legitimacy to ask me for dinner on Friday evenings in return for my daily allowance. My parents have
power over me, which is why I have to be home on Friday evenings.
If we agree to both claims, then the power we have over others and vice versa must have a profound
effect on the social phenomena that we see in our daily lives. Even Durkheim would attribute religion to
a sort of totem and an anonymous and impersonal force that is identifiable in each of these beings but
identical to none of them. Religion is a perfect example of how power has an effect on social
phenomena. I am a Muslim so I know that every year millions of Muslim pilgrims will flock to the city of
Mecca to perform the ritual of Hajj. As Muslims we believe that God has the power over everything, and
the ritual of the Hajj is our way of submitting our will to His powers. Here is the thing the rituals that
we perform in religion must stem from some belief of a higher being that has power over us. The larger
the differences in power between the two, the more our decisions will be influenced by that power.
When a pattern starts to happen, that situation gives rise to social phenomena. We all know that the
massive movement of people annually during the Hajj is indeed a social phenomenon in itself.

Let us examine the extent to which power has an influence over the social phenomena we often see in
CSI. I will attempt to push forth Gattos take on the education social phenomena, particularly the
function of schools. He described schools as mere laboratories designed to produce mediocre
intellectsall in order to render the populace manageable. Let me refresh your memory that a few
weeks ago, we conducted an exercise in seminar that involves the mapping of power. You mapped the
objects or people that you feel have power over you, subsequently, you mapped the objects or people
that you feel you have power over. This mapping is done on a scale of strength and tangibility. Using
your data, I have layered your power maps (in figure i) with 27 other students and the data yielded an
interesting result (in figure ii):








Figure (i): The figure shows how each power map is layered on top of one another to give a visual data
of the collective power maps
Figure (ii): The figure shows a visualization of the power map, where the x-axis represent the strength of
the power and the y-axis represent the tangibility of the power. The density represents the extent to
which students have marked out a point within that area.
Key observations:
(a) The map is densest (i.e. students mark out or scribble points at the area to annotate the position
of power) at the top left hand corner of the Power Map graph, where Strength of the Sources of
Power is at its highest. On the other hand, the map of Where or Upon Whom Do You Assert
Your Power is evenly distributed.
(b) There is a significant gap where Strength of the Sources of Power and the Strength of Where
or Upon Whom Do You Assert You Power is at its lowest. The gap is consistent in both.
(c) As seen in the red blobs, school is often seen as one of the major sources of power which has
high strength.
If Gatto argues that schools produce mediocre students in order to have power or control over them,
then schools must definitely appear at the very top of the sources of power. Indeed it has. The visual
map certainly points to this fact. Certainly this data supports Gattos claims that schools produce
students in order to wield some form of power of them. This fact is also surprising too because it
undermines the assumption that Yale-NUS College students are also insusceptible to this social
phenomena. Of course one can assume that because we are doing the exercise within the context of the
classroom, the effect of power the school has over you is pretty obvious. This illustration is a mere
example of how power maps can show how social phenomena arise. The second observation might hint
to the fact that students are not aware of objects or people who seem to have a low degree of power of
them as indicated in key observation (b). This phenomena might be so because we tend to be forgiving
when people have a slight degree of power over you, thus we are not truly aware of these forces. When
your best friend asks you to buy that packet of cigarette when you are on the way to school, you forgive
these moments and do the acts even unconsciously your best friend is exerting his or her power on you.
On the other hand, I concede that the visualization of the power map does not go into detail as to what
each student wrote. The power map also assumes that the sources of power or the objects you have
power over remains constant. So while my arguments above might still be a hypothesis, we can see how
power can largely determine our behavior in various situations.
In conclusion, I have argued that power can explain a lot of the social phenomena that we learned in CSI
from inequality to family and even religion, and hence reflecting my experience as a student in CSI, the
idea that we can now explain everything in terms of power is indeed powerful.