Summary of the Barrett Power as Knowing Participation in Change Theory
Power, Barrett proposes, is the capacity to participate knowingly in the nature of change characterizing the continuous mutual process of people and their world. The observable, measurable dimensions of power are awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and involvement in creating change (Barrett, 1983). There is no order in which these dimensions occur, nor do they manifest in a lock-step fashion. In fact, they are inseparable and continuously fluctuating (Barrett, 2004). The four dimensions are measured by 12 characteristics using the Power as Knowing Participation in Change Tool (PKPCT). These characteristics are the belief systems that inhibit or enhance power by organizing life decisions concerning how people participate in change.
The power theory elaborates M. Rogers' (1970) axiom that humans can participate knowingly in change. According to Rogers' Science of Unitary Human Beings, humans cannot not participate in change. However, when their participation is of a knowing nature, this is what Barrett has defined as power (Barrett, 1986).
Power as knowing participation in change is being aware of what one is choosing to do, feeling free to do it, and doing it intentionally. Awareness and freedom to act intentionally guide participation in choices and involvement in creating change. It's the integral nature of the power manifestations of awareness, choices, freedom, and involvement that constitutes power. Power is freedom to make aware choices regarding involvement in life situations, including health-promoting changes. Depending on the nature of that awareness and the strength of the choices one makes, and how free one feels to act on their intentions, the range of situations in which one is involved in creating change, as well as the manner in which one knowingly participates vary (Barrett, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990a, 1990b, 2003 ). People can knowingly participate in creating their reality by actualizing some of their potentials rather than others. They knowingly participate in creating what manifests as their experience by being aware, making choices, feeling free to act on their intentions and involving themselves in creating changes. Power is an experiential process that manifests in two types that Barrett calls power-as-control and power-as-freedom. Both types manifest in a variety of forms with varying intensity and frequency.
According to this theory, power is inherently value free in terms of the definition as knowing participation in change and the four dimensions that constitute the phenomenon of power. Power is neither good nor evil in and of itself although we as individuals or groups can make value judgments about the many forms in which power manifests, and we can label the forms as constructive or destructive. While the phenomenon of power is comprised of the same four dimensions, the two types reflect differing worldviews. The predominant causal worldview sees power-as-control and it is characterized by being hierarchical, deterministic, reductionistic and predictable; in a nutshell, power-as-control involves dominance in an effort to “control.” Power is viewed as a finite quantity; there are only so many pieces in the pie, so to speak. To the contrary, power-as-freedom reflects an acausal worldview. Here power looks altogether different as it is characterized by openness, mutual process, indivisibility, and unpredictability. Power as control is grounded in the laws of cause and effect and a closed system physical-material perspective where power often involves force or dominance, with or without coercion, in an effort to “control.” To the contrary, power-as-freedom embraces the worldview grounded in acausality, which allows for “freedom.” Furthermore, in a universe of open systems, power is not a finite quantity. Whereas power-as-control often interferes with freedom of the other person or group, power-as- freedom requires that freedom of others be preserved through no attempt to impose one’s will on others. From this view, power-as-freedom is a unitary phenomenon and changes are innovative, creative, and unpredictable (Barrett, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990a, 1990b, 2003). Unitary means indivisible, ever-changing, and unpredictable (Parse, 2003). The acausal worldview acknowledges the invisible world as well as the visible and is antithetical to worldviews based solely on objective, visible, physical, material assumptions about the nature of reality.
The inseparable association of the four power dimensions is termed a person's or group's Power Profile The Power Profile is not static; it varies based on the changing nature of the human-environment mutual process of various individuals and/or groups. These changes indicate: 1) the nature of the awareness of experiences; 2) the type of choices made; 3) the degree to which freedom to act intentionally is operating; 4) the manner of involvement in creating specific changes (Barrett, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990a, 1990b, 2003).
Barrett's theory not only describes power in individuals, it equally pertains to and illuminates our understanding of power in groups, regardless of their size, type, or purpose. As with individuals, every group is a unitary whole that is different from the sum of its parts, and it can not be understood by its parts anymore than one can understand water by knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen (Rogers, 1970, 1994). A group's Power Profile can be known by the extent that the group demonstrates awareness, by the kinds of choices it makes, by the degree to which freedom operates in the group, and how the group is involved in creating specific changes (Barrett, 1986, 1989).
Barrett's program of research on power has involved several completed studies using both quantitative and qualitative methods. In guiding further development of this knowledge base, approximately 80 studies by other researchers have used either the theory and/or the Power as Knowing Participation in Change Tool (PKPCT) that measures power. (Barrett, E. A. M., 1990a, 2003; Barrett & Caroselli, 1998a; Caroselli & Barrett, 1998b; Barrett, Farren, Kim, Larkin & Maloney, 2001, Kim, in press, 2009).
©1983, revised 1997, 2004, 2006, 2008.
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