Understanding Power is Necessary for Healthy, Successful Living

By Paul R. Pace

The NASW Press book Understanding Power: An Imperative for Human Services expands the perspective on the operation of power in the work of all human services providers. The editors, Vanessa Jackson, MSW; Elaine Pinderhughes, MSW; and Patricia Romney, PhD, answer questions about the text.

Understanding Power - An Imperative for Human Services

What inspired this book?

Professor Pinderhughes’ life work has always focused on power. As she wrote in the preface, people need power “to solve their problems,” and to “reach their life goals.” In other words, power is a sine qua non of healthy and successful living.

This book emerged from Pinderhughes’ and Jackson’s collaboration over many years. Jackson is an activist, Soul Doula and social worker who is committed to increasing power literacy within the human services field and building a bridge between activists and social service providers.

Core to a functional alliance is a common understanding of the multilevel and dynamic nature of power. The renewed focus on racial and social justice must be grounded in an analysis of white supremacy as a manifestation of abusive power relations. We are called to dismantle toxic power structures and invite stakeholders to co-create new pathways to power-sharing.

Pat Romney’s work in the power movements of the ’70s fixed her thinking on the issues of power. It is important not only to have power, but to understand its many forms. As editors, we invited in colleagues that could explore power through a variety of lenses including theoretical underpinnings of power and application in clinical, training, supervision and community work.

What are the key takeaways?

  • Power is dynamic, necessary, and neither good nor bad.
  • Power is how things get done; how actions are taken.
  • Power is relational; It is exercised in interpersonal contexts.
  • Social work programs would do well to build courses on power; A sample syllabus is included in the book.
  • No constructive change can occur without an understanding and utilization of power.

NASW Press books are available in print and electronic format at NASWPress.org

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