Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
power, agentic, agents, complex
What is power? Traditionally, power has been theorized through a lens of agents, their intentions, and their inter-relations. In fact, theorists of late have neglected the notion of power, abandoning it as dispensable, unable to legitimize or explain human action beyond “who has power over whom.” My thesis extends beyond this claim by exploring the concept of power, but relaxing the assumption that it always derives from agents. Although agents are still actors in, and contribute to non-agentic power, the concept is still distinct from traditional notions of power. Rejecting these traditional notions, this thesis suggests power can be found beyond or outside of agents. In other words, systems with complex interconnectivities contain emergent units that produce elements of non-agentic power. Drawing from recent sociological literatures on systemic risk and emergence, my research finds that there are four theoretical elements of non agentic power: nonlinearity, intentionality, collectivity, and power-source. These elements are outlined in Chapter 3. After defining the structural aspects of non-agentic power, the thesis will explore how non-agentic power arises through emergence and emergent units. Rejecting traditional reductionist theories, non-agentic power is highly complex, and therefore can only be reduced to collective, emergent social properties. Notably, non-agentic power is closely related to other terms, like complexity, complex systems, and systemic risk. Though each term overlaps, there are crucial differences between power, complexity and risk. These contrasts will be highlighted in Chapter 4. Subsequently, Chapter 5 will provide further empirical examples of complexity, complex systems, and systemic risk within the Internet of Things; these examples will contextualize the debate on “what is power?”, ultimately concluding that power can indeed be non-agentic. The objective of this debate is not to spark a philosophical quandary over how the human condition operates – although this discussion is certainly welcomed. Instead, this piece aims to illuminate the hidden dimensions of power, which are ever-present in today’s globalized world.
Cutter, Davis, "Power Without Agents? A Theoretical Analysis of Power in a Complex and Globalized World" (2015). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 287.