Power is a word with many different associations. Some people associate power with knowledge. Some associate power with popularity. Others associate power with force. They are all right. Power comes in all of those forms (and more). Eric Liu defines power as the ability to make others do what you would have them do. Power extends to all areas of life, especially the civic arena. Liu goes on to say that “power governs how any form of government works. It determines who gets to determine the rules of the game.”
Civic power comes from six main sources: physical force, wealth, state action, social norms, ideas, and strength in numbers. Police officers have the power to enforce laws through physical force. Lobbying groups are able to influence policy through wealth. Lawmakers exercise their power by creating laws. Our communities have the power to influence what we deem acceptable and unacceptable in society through social norms. Great ideas often spread like wildfire and gain power through the number of people that support them.