Political space establishes human relations.

Agreement feels powerful. When a group of people, after the exhausting process of forming and exchanging opinions, of getting to know and getting along with each other, of understanding and assessing the current situation and discussing what should be done in the future; when they finally arrive at an agreement, the moment of settlement is usually accompanied by an almost unconditional belief that “We can do this!”

The captivating feeling of being able to achieve something together is the sensation of power. Essentially, Arendt argues, power is a “potential and not an unchangeable, measurable, and reliable entity like force or strength” (HC: 200). Consequently, nobody is naturally more powerful than others as men are naturally stronger than women; and nobody can possess power like one can possess a gun. As any potential, power becomes real only under certain conditions, and it vanishes as soon as these conditions are no longer provided. Power arises whenever people act in concert, which is precisely the case, and perhaps most glaringly obvious in the very moment when a group of equals arrives at an agreement. However, it is also the case when a ruler commands and others obey, since “in politics, obedience and support are the same” (OR: 228). Power then accompanies the respective actors for as long as they really act together. But it disappears entirely as soon as the action is over, either because the actors have lost touch or because they turned against each other. Sometimes power disintegrates suddenly and quickly, sometimes it follows a slow process of decay.

“Since power arises wherever people act in concert, and since people’s concerted actions occur essentially in the political arena, the potential power inherent in all human affairs has made itself felt in a space dominated by force. As a result, power and force appear to be identical, and under modern conditions, that is indeed largely the case. But in terms of their origins and intrinsic meaning, power and force are not identical, but in a certain sense opposites.” (PP: 147)

At any event, power does not automatically increase with the number of actors but rather with the density and the stability of the human relations within the group. A small group of people whose actions are concerted can thus be infinitely more powerful than a big organisation with thousands of members who are all just nominal members, that is, as the Germans say so beautifully, “Karteileichen”.

Power arises when people act in concert. Consequently, those political spaces that gather people who really act together will soon become the “powerhouses” of politics.



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