Faculty Publication: Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Amanda B. Cox

March 3, 2022

"Powered Down: The Microfoundations of Organizational Attempts to Redistribute Power"

Author: Cox, Amanda Barrett

Source: American Journal of Sociology, Volume: 127, Issue: 2, Pages: 285-336, DOI: 10.1086/716591, Sept. 2021

Type of Publication: Article

Abstract: What types of interactions facilitate the redistribution of power& across institutional roles? To answer this question, the author draws on ethnographic data from two organizations attempting to shift the conventional power relations within their respective institutions: a private philanthropic foundation seeking to transfer control over its grant making to a community-based board and a democratic school designed to give students and adults an equal voice in decisions. The author offers a typology of power-shifting encounters and focuses on two types of encounters that facilitate the balancing of power relations-symmetrizing encounters and encompassing encounters. She shows that these encounters supported and were supported by power-redistributing discourses and organizational structures within each organization. These findings suggest that the balancing (or near balancing) of asymmetrical power relations relies on power-distributing mechanisms that are consistent and aligned across multiple levels within an organization, from interactions, to organizational structures, to organizational culture and discourse. Symmetrizing encounters and encompassing encounters are the interactional building blocks within such an effort.

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