Sunday, May 29, 2011

Power and Love

I just finished the book 'Power and Love' by Adam Kahane. It is a fascinating book. The subtitle reads - 'Solving tough social and organizational Problems'.
The book shows the duality, complementarity and inter-dependency of the two concepts 'power' and 'love'. When I first read those two words in the title, I still thought of them as opposites and this idea of interlinking those two made me particularly curious.

In fascinating ways, Kahane describes his journey as a facilitator, leader, participant and partner trying to grasp those two concepts in his work addressing complex social problems. He shows his own personal challenges in accepting these two forces in group dynamics and the ability to generate change. He provides examples of how he experienced first hand the consequences and difficulties of not allowing a co-existence of both during projects and process. The pictures and metaphors used in the book seem simple but captivating throughout including a vast variety of authors and practitioners. In order to explain 'power' and 'love' he uses definitions crafted by Paul Tillich.
Tillich defines power as "the drive of everything living to realize itself, with increasing intensity and extensity."So power in this sense is the drive to achieve one's purpose, to get the one's job done, to grow. He defines love as  "the drive toward the unity of the separated" So love in this sense is the drive to reconnect and make whole that which has become or appears fragmented. (p.2, Power and Love)
Kahane then argues further in the book that love can only have a nurturing and positive effect if it comes with power and power can only achieve if it comes with love.
In the book the author explains that the seemingly stark contrast of those two concepts is actually the process of a balancing act of two forces that are inter-dependent in order to bring about change. It is described as the process of learning to 'walk'. One cannot move both legs at the same time if one wants to move forward but for a fluid walking one has to move the legs one after the other.

The book's closing paragraph reads:
'How can we learn to walk with power and love? The way is long, the terrain is rough, there is no path, and there is no map. We need companions on this journey, but no one else can make a way for us. We must use both of our legs; we must put one foot in front of the other. We must step forward.'(p.140, Power and Love)
The concepts mentioned are not new but the way they are presented in the book seem to me almost like 'sense-making' of a puzzle with many pieces.

I for instance deal in my work with the concepts of 'reconciliation' and 'justice'. The complementarity described by Kahane regarding power and love fits right in when conceptualizing the inter-dependency of justice and reconciliation. We as an organisation argue that justice cannot be realised without reconciliation and vise versa in order to affect sustainable, positive change in post-war societies. Justice systems often play a crucial role in the implementation towards a democratic state and the functioning of the rule of law. Trials and court hearings regarding committed crimes during war give ordinary people a sense of justice but without reconciliation efforts throughout society peace and stability will not be reached.  A few 'fair' and 'just' trials will not satisfy all victims. Where the justice system stands for power, for institutions and for the rule of law, love comes in as the reconciliation efforts. Long lasting peace cannot be achieved if elements of reconciliation are not addressed to find a common ground that enables citizens to move forward jointly.

This short discourse to my work, just shows how those two concepts and descriptions are transferable to quite a few situations that involve change. I hope it has made you curious and created an interest in the book and work of Adam Kahane.

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