One of three types of power presented by Starhawk
in her books Truth or Dare
and Dreaming the Dark
Power-from-within is not dependent on control
of the environment
or other people, as power is traditionally defined. Starhawk calls this traditional view of power "power-over
" and links it to an estranged
, mechanistic worldview
. The third type of power is power-with
, or the influence
one exerts with one's peer
s based on one's knowledge and abilities.
"Power-from-within is linked to the mysteries that awaken our deepest abilities and potential...[it] is akin to the sense of mastery we develop as young children with each unfolding ability: the exhilaration of standing erect, of walking, of speaking the magic words that convey our needs and thoughts. But power-from-within is also akin to something deeper. It arises from our sense of connection, our bonding with other human beings, and with the environment. Although power-over rules the system we live in, power-from-within sustains our lives. We can feel that power in acts of creation, healing, soothing, playing, singing, making love. We can feel it in acting together with others to oppose control."
-- Starhawk, Truth or Dare, p. 9-10.
Our cultural programming teaches us that power is something someone wields over you (your parents, your teachers, your boss), and if you're lucky one day you'll get to wield it over someone else (your children, your employees, your spouse?). But the power that someone wields over another is ultimately false, because it based on a lie - that any person has the right to make decisions for another person.
It is easy to see in our system that people who seem to have power in fact don't. When you were a kid, it seemed like your teacher had all the authority - and if not them, then surely the principal! But analyzing the education system it is plain that teachers often feel powerless, caught between the demand of the parents and school boards, the fickle public who refuse to fund the school adequately, state directives on what to teach and how to teach it, and often inadequate resources to deal with behavior problems. This situation is typical of institutions and illustrative of the way power operates under patriarchy - everyone thinks that someone else has it, but in fact no one does.
Power-from-within is a different way of conceptualizing power, and a necessary precursor to creating a society free of oppression and coercion. In our current culture of Prozac and self-help books, almost everyone has the sneaking suspicion that they're not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, and ultimately don't deserve to happy. Capitalism thrives on this, encouraging it and feeding people diet pills, deoderant sprays, and bigger-and-better cars, boats, and (gasp) even nifty computer gadgets.
But if everyone knew and believed that they were OK, that their power came not from the amount of cash in their wallet or how good they look in their new "power-tie" (interesting how these words get codified), but instead from their inherent worth and rights as a human being - the right to determine one's best course of action, the right to be one's own authority - then it would be impossible for the systems of oppression to work.