Power, Individual and Social Well-being


I would like to be seen as someone who is down to earth, caring and kind. Just one among the people who values humans in their struggles through life and stands for justice. Hence the ideas of success which try to show lives of successful people cut off from the rest of society makes little meaning for me. Living a life of richness and getting defined by the parameters of success where one’s life is completely cut off and apart from the rest of others is a problem of modern society with its individualistic ideas. It has made individuals autonomous, but too autonomous that their connection with society and concern for seeing their individual wellbeing in social wellbeing is lost.

The struggle for power and achieving control over the rest does satisfy an individual ego. However, it does not necessarily achieve a social good. Achieving social good lies in the core intentions of the actor. If the action is determined by individual intent for gaining power and control over others, even if it gets defined by the name of social good it is primarily for satisfying the individual ego inspired by individualism. Gaining power whether individual power or social power is essential as the world is defined by politics. However, power for what purpose matters? If it matters for social wellbeing and not individual growth, then achieving such power matters. But that power should only make one responsible and not cut off from the rest.

When it comes to power, there are those who aspire for power and then those who question power. All the professional politicians come under the first category. The social activists, intellectuals come under the second category. Within professional politicians are those for whom achieving power is the core aim. Acquisition of power is by whatever means. It could be through floating money, using caste or regional sentiments, reaching out to the wealthy, making huge but unachievable promises. Under the second category are those who question power and want those in power to be responsible to people. Actions of power which favour the rich instead of poor, upper caste instead of marginalised, powerful instead of powerless is questioned. The second category of people is seen as a threat by those in power.

Questioning of power is received in different ways. If those in power are determined by the ideals and democratic values, then the ideas of those questioning power is deliberated upon and points for social wellbeing taken into account for consideration and action. On the other hand, if those in power take it for granted that their coming to power puts them apart from others and provides them with uncontrolled authority to do things as per their whims, then an authoritarian regime sets in. Systems collapse to serve an individual or group authority. Governance and Institutional norms take a backseat to serve the one in authority.

There comes the question of social wellbeing. The traditionalists argue that social good lies in preserving the past – purity in terms of religion, caste, patriarchal ideas. This only preserves that traditional hierarchy. The liberals argue in creating autonomous individuals, pure citizens who are not necessarily determined by their primordial identities but are autonomous citizens. It questions traditional hierarchy but still retains hierarchy based on class. The radicals argue, that inequities and social hierarchies determined by birth or class should be put an end to that equal opportunities for all are created. And that social good can only be achievable in a state of social equality. And that society should move in that direction.

T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher


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