Power, Empowerment and Social Change

Published on 8 November 2019

This book uncovers how power operates around the world, and how it can be resisted or transformed through empowered collective action and social leadership. The stakes have never been higher. Recent years have seen a rapid escalation of inequalities, the rise of new global powers and corporate interests, increasing impunity of human rights violations, suppression of civil society, and a re-shaping of democratic processes by post-truth, populist and nationalist politics.

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Rather than looking at power through the lenses of agency or structure alone, this book views power and empowerment as complex and multidimensional societal processes, defined by pervasive social norms, conditions, constraints and opportunities. Bridging theory and practice, the book explores real-world applications using a selection of frameworks, tools, case studies, examples, resources and reflections from experience to support actors to analyse their positioning and align themselves with progressive social forces.

Compiled with social change practitioners, students and scholars in mind, Power, Empowerment and Social Change is the perfect volume for anyone involved in politics, international development, sociology, human rights and environmental justice who is looking for fresh insights for transforming power in favour of relatively less powerful people.

Table of Contents

Part I

  • 1.0 Introduction: power, empowerment and social change
    Jethro Pettit and Rosemary McGee

Part II Conceptual and theoretical groundings and debates

  • 2.1. Plus ça change…? Shifting power in a disorienting moment
    Lisa VeneKlasen
  • 2.2 Finding community: the power of unruliness
    Patta Scott-Villiers
  • 2.3 Rethinking accountability: a power perspective
    Rosemary McGee
  • 2.4 Transforming power with embodied practice
    Jethro Pettit
  • 2.5 Towards a political practice of empowerment in digital times: a feminist commentary from the Global South
    Anita Gurumurthy and Nandini Chami

Part III Analysing power and empowerment: frameworks and approaches

  • 3.1 Did we forget about power? Reintroducing concepts of power for justice, equality and peace
    Alexa Bradley
  • 3.2 Applying power analysis: using the ‘Powercube’ to explore forms, levels and spaces
    John Gaventa
  • 3.3 Critical reflections on shifting the toxic alchemy of institutional power
    Aruna Rao and Joanne Sandler
  • 3.4 Finding the right power tool(s) for the job: rendering the invisible visible
    Jo Rowlands

Part IV Understanding agency: social action for shifting power

  • 4.1 Power and agency in violent settings
    Marjoke Oosterom
  • 4.2. Micro-level analysis of power and its relevance for practice
    Walter Flores
  • 4.3 Environmental defenders: courage, territory and power
    Fran Lambrick
  • 4.4 The decolonising Zapatista revolution
    Raúl Zibechi

Part V Learning and unlearning power for reflective social action

  • 5.1 Learning about power in a Masters for reflective social change practitioners Rosemary McGee with
    Jethro Pettit and Fiammetta Wegner
  • 5.2 Reflexive aid practice: naming and dealing with power
    Rosalind Eyben
  • 5.3 Consciousness-raising, intersectionality, and movement building for social transformation
    Mariela Arce Andrade and Valerie Miller

Where to buy

This book can be purchased from the Publisher.


‘A bold and compelling exploration of how power works in the context of today’s social, political and environmental crises – looking beyond the usual political economy and behaviourist lenses – and offering fresh ideas and reflections from activism on how theory and practice can be joined up to strengthen movements for justice and human rights’.
Andrea Cornwall, Professor at SOAS, University of London, UK

‘Like power itself, ideas about power are contested terrain. This timely collection effectively bridges theory and practice to inform a much-needed rethink of relevant conceptual frameworks, grounded in the authors’ extensive hands-on experience with action-research, popular education and frontline empirical research.’
Jonathan Fox, Professor at the Accountability Research Center, American University, USA


Cite this publication

McGee, R. and Pettit, J. (Eds) (2019) Power, Empowerment and Social Change, Routledge

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Image of Rosemary McGee

Rosemary McGee

Research Fellow

Image of Jethro Pettit

Jethro Pettit

Emeritus Fellow

Publication details

published by
978 1 1385 75318


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