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Toffler's three forms of power

 

Explanations > Power > Toffler's three forms of power

Violence | Wealth | Knowledge | The evolution of power | So what?

 

Futurist Alvin Toffler describes three forms of power and shows how these have changed over time.

Violence

The most basic form of power is violence, or physical forms of power. 'Might is right' is their watchword and it is close to the law of the jungle in operation.

The basic promise is 'do as you are told and you won't get hurt'.

Those who gain the power of violence do so by controlling the mechanisms of physical domination, from armies and police forces to the ownership of specific weapons.

Wealth

Money is a more flexible form of power than violence as it can be exchanged for pretty much anything you want, from goods to services of all kinds.

Money can be viewed as 'stored time/action': you work and are given money, then give the money to others to save time/action. The trick in acquiring wealth is to invest the money in ways that it provides a maximum return on investment.

Those who gain wealth do so largely through a superior ability (or sometimes luck) in investment, taking controlled risks and gaining disproportionate returns.

Knowledge

Knowledge is the ultimate form of power and can be used to acquire both wealth and violence, if applied in the right way. 'Knowledge is power' is a common saying that highlights this.

The evolution of power

Toffler indicates how violence was the basic power of the nobility in ancient times, where a powerful elite worked largely through domination that threatened violence to those who did not comply.

In the industrial revolution, violence gave way to wealth, as the merchant classes became more powerful and gained control of critical resources and channels.

Today, in the Third Wave, the power of knowledge is replacing commercial wealth as the primary source of power. If you have the right knowledge, you can get a lot done without recourse to money. Power is thus moving to the educated elite (and masses). The internet is a great leveller of power in this regard.

So what?

Seek knowledge in order to manage power today. Money is still useful, but knowledge is available (like on this site!).

References

Alvin Toffler, (1980). The Third Wave, Bantam Books

Alvin Toffler, (1990). Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century. Bantam Books

 

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