The struggle for power involves us in a daily battle f influencing, persuading, commanding or, when all else fails, forcing people to do what we want while, at the same time, preventing them from exerting their will over us. But power extends beyond this mosaic f interpersonal struggles…
"It is never localized here or there, never in anybody's hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece f wealth" (1980a, p. 98).
Although discourse and practice pre-exist us, we learn to harness them to our own end. The notion f power being located within rules and regulations which are continually adopted and transformed by individual agents is central to Giddens' structuration theory f power (1984,p. 14). Foucault is known for his work analyzing changes in the discourse and practice f discipline and punishment, particularly in relation to education (1977a) but, with the exception f Dwyer's (1995) study f post-compulsory education in Australia, his theories have not had any major impact in adult education (Westwood, 1992).
To understand the notion f empowerment and emancipation, we must begin with an analysis f power. This leads immediately to a fundamental problem: If power dictates or produces truth, how do we recognize true statements about power More fundamentally, is truth possible beyond power We may believe, with Habermas, that there is a realm f truth which exists beyond power and which is central to authentic human being, communication, and voluntary social order. Habermas (1984) argues that the "orientation to reaching understanding" is a universal feature f human communication which is central to overcoming self-interest and the domination f economic and political power in our lives (p. 286). This is also the fundamental assumption underlying Mezirow's (1994; 1995) theory f adult learning. Foucault, however, insists that there is no truth without power (1980a, p. 131). It is in and through power that what is known, what is said, what is taken for granted, and what is regarded as the truth are constituted. The tensions between these two positions are central to the following discussion.
It is argued that for people to become emancipated it is important first to be able to distinguish social action deriving from power as opposed to, for example, love and affection. It is also important to distinguish different types f power. This is something which is missing in Mezirow's work. Within a Habermasian framework, understanding how power works is crucial if people are to prevent the colonization and technization f the lifeworld by power and money and develop a society based on free, undistorted communication (Habermas, 1987, p. 183). It is argued here, that for emancipatory learning to reach its full potential, there is a need to go beyond an analytical realist typology f power to a Foucauldian structuralist analysis which helps people understand how they are limited and controlled by discourses and practices (Honneth, 1993; Kelly, 1994).
The central tenet f this paper is that empowerment involves people developing capacities to act successfully within the existing system and structures f power, while emancipation concerns critically analyzing, resisting and challenging structures f power. The first section begins with an analysis f empowerment. Empowerment used to be associated with a wide variety f radical social movements (Bookman, 1988; Davis, 1988; Hanks, 1987; Inglis, 1994; Kieffer, 1984; O'Sullivan, 1993; Solomon, 1976; Villerreal, 1988). In more recent years, however, it has been appropriated by organizational ...
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