Power and Responsibility


I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the close relationship between power and responsibility. It keeps coming up in my research. It has shown itself in three different projects/papers I am working on, and I’m attending a workshop soon on the idea of the flip side of empowerment: a shifting burden of work. It’s interesting to me that so little of the discussion about the ’empowering’ nature of eHealth talks about how empowerment — even assuming that it is universally welcome — shifts responsibility along with power.

I haven’t quite worked it out for myself, nor have I quite managed to integrate all the literature I’ve read thus far, but roughly speaking, I think that there is a cycle here that goes both ways: more power allows you to take more responsibility, and if you have more responsibility, you assume more power. It’s more difficult to take responsibility with little to no power, and when you have little responsibility, you have less power. Put into practice, I think this incorporates the tensions between legal and moral authority, but I haven’t quite worked it all out yet in a way that I can articulate clearly.

Recommended literature welcome!

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