You're More Powerful than You Think

You're More Powerful than You Think

A Citizen's Guide to Making Change Happen

Eric Liu

This is a matter of what gets onto the agenda—and what doesn’t. Social scientist Steven Lukes describes this as “the three faces of power.” The first is the formal agenda for action, say, at a city-council meeting. This is the docket. The second face is what council members do not include on the agenda because some interest groups or powerful individuals worked hard to block or to preempt them. This is what’s between the lines of the docket. The third face is the prevailing ideology. In a society that believes in market capitalism or white supremacy, ideology has the power to keep some things—such as “state ownership of the means of production” or “African American suffrage”—completely off the table. This is the vocabulary of the docket. Being able to truly read an agenda means being able to read all three faces of rule-making power: the docket as printed; what’s missing or between the lines of the docket; and the very language of the docket, which “rules in” or “rules out” certain approaches as a matter of conventional belief. All three create opportunities for challenge. To challenge a “rigged game” at this level means to ensure that what’s already on the docket goes your way and that what’s not on the docket (but should be) gets placed there.

Link · 1139