Measuring Empowerment: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

By Deepa Narayan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 8
Self-Rated Power and
Welfare in Russia

Michael Lokshin and Martin Ravallion

A discipline that does not have independent measures of its dependent
variable, for example, utility, risks its standing as a scientific discipline.

—Robert Lane, The Market Experience

It is evident that different people within a given society, with one set of laws and institutions, have different abilities to directly influence the actions of others. In short, there is inequality of personal power, just as there is inequality of economic welfare as often measured by income or consumption. Some policyoriented discussions have argued that redressing power inequality—by taking actions that selectively empower those with little power—should be seen as a distinct policy objective, side by side with the more traditional aims of promoting affluence or reducing income poverty. For example, World Development Report 2000/2001: Attacking Povertyputs the need for “empowerment” on the same level as promoting economic “opportunity” and “security” (World Bank 2000).

This begs the question as to whether power is assigned differently than economic welfare within a society. The answer is far from obvious. One might assert that command over wealth is largely a result of one’s power, but this is surely a simplistic view of how an economy allocates economic rewards. Similarly, the view that “money buys power” is surely too simple a model of how power is allocated. Realized power presumably depends on one’s effort to participate in political and other institutions. The abilities needed to acquire power through such efforts may well be quite different from those characteristics that are rewarded by markets.


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