#learn power wednesdays: Words, words, words – A power cheat sheet

Languages are not simply composed of words. These words often
vehiculate meanings, abstract ideas, which we call concepts. It is a
miracle that we can comprehend
them – just think about the complex operations
our brain undertakes when we hear words, let alone when we first have
to learn them.

Power is a particularly complicated concept,
endlessly discussed in philosophy, political science, sociology, law, as
well as in international relations.

Above is my imperfect
attempt at listing some of the vocabulary thrown about when
talking about power in German (my mother tongue), French, English
and Russian.

I have also added influence at
the very bottom of the table, together with its conceptual opposite.
Influence is the card left to play in the absence of power and
authority (more about that in other posts #influence).

Interestingly, but perhaps
not surprisingly, concepts do not always overlap from one language to
the other. German and French possess different words for power as in
potential to act and power as in institutionalised rule. English and
Russian do not
(albeit for different historical reasons, one surmises).

Russian also
has no distinct word for authority, which, to paraphrase Hannah
Arendt, refers to a state in which neither force nor argument is
necessary to achieve compliance.

Words help us to make sense
of the world.

Johanna M

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