I have begun reading "The End of Power" by Moses Naim, the first book suggested by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, for his 'year of books'. I have to admit that I have only managed the first chapter so far, but that is because of the problem in finding the time, and not that I am not caught up in what I have read so far.
Naim recognises the importance of power and how we use it through the whole of life. We need power. "A world where players have enough power to block everyone else's initiatives but no one has the power to impose its preferred course of action is a world where decisions are not taken, taken too late, or watered down to the point of ineffectiveness."
Power is everywhere. "Power plays out in every field in which we contend, compete, or organise: international politics and war, domestic politics, business, scientific inquiry, religion, social action such as philanthropy and activism, and social and cultural relations of all kinds."
However, Naim suggests that power is decaying, and it is decaying because it is being spread more thinly. He suggests that in most fields we are experiencing a wider sharing of power which is effecting how power impacts on life in general. Power-sharing might seem to be good - as indeed it can be - but we need to take account of how that then changes our ability to deal with a wide range of important issues.
As Naim puts it: "The decay of power is an exhilarating trend in the sense that it has made space for new ventures, new companies, and, all over the world, new voices and more opportunities. But its consequences for stability are fraught with danger. How can we continue the welcome advances of plural voices and opinions, initiative and innovation, without at the same time driving ourselves into a crippling paralysis that could undo this progress very quickly?"
These are interesting questions, and it is interesting to reflect on what they say to the life of the church. How do we use power? How do we share power? Are there places where we misuse it?
Misusing power can be incredibly damaging, but using it appropriately is vital.