September Meeting of the 17 Group

The September meeting of the 17 Group will be held on Wednesday the 7th of September at 7pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St West End and will be addressed by Ralph Summy on the topic of political power, as entitled and summarized below:

Changing Power Paradigms: From Mainstream to Nonviolent Politics

This talk is directed at the question of how power might be organised and exercised in shifting the paradigm from the mainstream of politics, where violence has occurred on a large scale, to a paradigm of power that nurtures the construction of a nonviolent society.

As long as mainstream politics utilises ‘power to’ (its authority) to serve the ontological needs of all of its citizenry, violence will probably be kept to a minimum. When, however, injustice — followed by instability — prevails

domestically, or the nation-state’s sovereignty is threatened by the ‘power over’ (domination) of another nation-state or group of nation-states, then the counter use of ‘power over’ becomes a likely scenario.

This is a process that Western societies in an organized and legitimated manner have inherited and followed over a span of 2500 years. Today, it appears in the theoretical schools of political realism/neo-realism, and even in liberal internationalism.

Arresting this perpetual history of extreme brutality poses one of the critical challenges for an enlightened citizenry. Not only must the past be understood, it must be discovered how to transform its ‘power over’ paradigm to one that fosters nonviolence. To achieve this goal, it is proposed to adumbrate the nonviolent ‘power from’ and ‘power with’ line of attack associated with Gene Sharp, and the ‘power within’ approach of Mohandas K. Gandhi that links to a multiplicity of power types in a humane way.

Before, however, presenting the Sharpian and Gandhian alternative courses of action, it may be useful to analytically dissect the positions of the realists and liberal internationalists within an ideological framework that categorizes the various ways people think about the peace and war debate.

Ralph Summy
Ralph Summy has taught peace theory and nonviolence at the University of Queensland and University of Hawaii, and established and co-ordinated at UQ an interdisciplinary major/double major in peace and conflict studies. In 1977, he co-founded the journal Social Alternatives and served on its collective for 31 years. His latest book (2008) was co-edited Nonviolence:An Alternative for Defeating Global Terror(ism). Although officially retired, he presently is an Adjunct Associate Professor, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.

As for Leon Davidovich, although he was apt to say things like “not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity”, he was also capable of qualifications like “one must know how to blend force with a manoeuvre, a blow with an agreement”, and occasionally he had a really much more pliable and accommodating look about him altogether, for example: (Leon as a dreamer)

Or even:(Leon as a child)

So, as to his attendance, whether in agreement or to debate the point, we are left in our usual suspense.

But this will not, of course affect you.

Dan O’Neill

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