Every social act is an exercise of power, every social relationship is a
power equation, and every social group or system is an organization
Power here. Power there. Power is everywhere (Boulding 1990, 131). Power exists as much in the way that lovers relate to each other as in electoral contests for political office.2 We've learned that power can be conveyed and shaped by conversation and by the way we organize the space in which we live and work (Korda 1975; Goodsell 1988). However, though it seems as though we know more now about the many places where power can be found, we don't know much about how power grows or is lost.
Existing theories of power avoid or fail to adequately explain how power gets created and destroyed. In most cases, the reason for this failure is simply that these theories insist on treating power as if it were an object. Power is viewed as an instrument, a structure, a possession, a finite object like gold that can be held, lost, or taken from others. Power, in this sense, is never destroyed or created. It is simply hoarded, taken or passed from one person, institution, or state to another. But power, this study argues, is not object but movement. It is not fixed but dynamic. It is not dead but alive. It is always either building up or breaking down. Power is always a movement initiated not by solitary individuals but between couples, groups, and communities. Because it is something we set in motion, power is in fact a dance.3
The deficiencies of the thing-like approach to power become clear in popular language, current debates, and history. During the last fifteen years, for example, analysts and pundits have made extravagant claims about the emerging power of the Puerto Rican and Latino community in the United States based simply on the expectation of growing population size. The “Year of the Hispanic” quickly turned into the “Decade of the