User:JREverest/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge/Seminar group 1/Power

Power in HistoryEdit

It is no secret that those in power largely have the ability to alter the past. People in powerful positions can alter historical stories that exist in people's minds, for many reasons. Mainly, this is done to justify ones' own actions. An example of this can be seen in Venezuelan Politics, where Maduro has altered past events to justify his own actions. For instance, Maduro supports Bolivar's revolution in the 19th century, as it is largely akin to his coup at the dawn of the 21st century. Maduro has justified many other coups in addition to this in the past, ignoring the constitutionally illegitimate aspects of them to justify his own actions. This is not only done by Maduro. Many politicians support others' who are acting in a fashion that they'd like to, to justify it. For instance, many see Russia and Turkey allying with Syria as a sign of things to come in those nations, perhaps following Assad's autocratic nature of government. Russia and Turkey can largely be seen as 'competitive autocracies' (coined by Levitsky, 2010) which could easily fall into the pit of dictatorship. If Erdogan and Putin were to condemn the actions of Assad, they would not be able to act in that way themselves. It would be hypocritical to condemn such actions. Therefore, these politicians are likely to explain Assad's actions in a way that is far from the truth, to justify it. What this creates, is a distortion in history through power. These effects disciplines' ability to research the topic and learn more about it.

Power in NeuropsychopharmacologyEdit

The study of psychedelic compounds has been greatly affected by power. Although the past decade has seen a resurgence in psychedelic research, there is a lot of social baggage, a struggle to find funding and a rather shallow bank of knowledge about the uses and nature of these classical psychedelics such as LSD as a result of the dynamic of power between government and researchers.

LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hoffman, and in the years to follow it became apparent it could have substantial therapeutic applications. Indeed, 1960 saw the start of the Harvard Psilocybin Project where researchers led by Timothy Leary researched their potential. Areas of interest were its use in treating mental disorders like schizophrenia, substance abuse and depression.[1] However, the extent that these psychedelic compounds engaged the youth greatly concerned the government due to the left-leaning anti-government position that users seemed to be left with that led to resistance to the Vietnam War. By 1966, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) shut down all psychedelic research and LSD was made illegal which halted the promising strides being made.[2][3]

Psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin remain illegal, Schedule I substances in the USA, with activists and researchers attempting to legalize these compounds for research and recreational use in many different states. However, the fact that this direction must be taken, battling legislation and requiring so much administration for every development is a result of the relationship between power and this field.

Power in medical research and public policiesEdit

While different forms of contraception already existed since Ancient Times or during the Middle Ages, it is from 1855 that appears the first form of male contraception of the modern period, but this does not seem at the time to be regulated by any medical or national institution. It is in 1960 that contraception becomes a medical and social issue: societies starts talking about new methods of contraception, the opening of women's rights, and the emergence of several social movements on these themes. It is indeed in 1961 that the international association "Family Planning Association" opens the access to the contraceptive pill in France and in the United Kingdom[4], which is perceived by several religious entities, in particular, Catholicism, as a danger because contrary to its values. The more the issue of women's rights is discussed, the more virulent the debate became between certain groups or associations with significant power and influence over the public opinion. With the opening of the voluntary termination of pregnancy, or abortion, political or religious groups around the world were able to slow down the opening and legalization, while others aimed to accelerate it, although this medical practice does not directly concern all the associations involved. Examples include "Laissez-Les-Vivre[5]" in France, "National Right to Life Committee[6]" in the US or "SPUC[7]" in the UK. The role of these groups of powers, which some would define by the word "lobby" remains difficult to define. However, for the most part, the actions of these political groups have led to the decriminalization of abortion only, and not an authorization or regulation by law. The same went for the contraceptive pill back in the 1960's.

In a different example, to illustrate the role of some organizations or political entities in medicine and scientific research, we can mention the HIV crisis. As early as 1985, when the disease appeared, and research began, some associations for the defense of patients were created, including Act Up, in the 1980s in London[8], in 1987 in New York[9], and in 1989 in Paris[10]. While around 1985, HIV seemed to affect more the LGBTQ+ community, some governments are reluctant to fund research or to inform about methods of protection against HIV, considering that the disease affects only a minority (an attitude that Act Up denounced several times)[10]. While the Catholic Church condemned the use of condoms in 1989, Act Up Paris, for instance, led actions to counter this message and to inform about the need for protection to fight against HIV. While some laboratories refused to share their research on HIV, for unknown reasons, some were targeted by ACT UP associations around the world who denounced a homophobic behavior and called for progress in research[10], while some governments did not even participate in the HIV treatment research in the first place. Through the HIV crisis, there was a real clash between different groups of powers and forms of power; while the role of the governmental power is at the same time disputed for its inaction then encouraged for its financial participation in the medical research, associations demonstrated their influence over the public opinion, and thus their power, through demonstrations, die-in[11], sitting, while being limited by their lack of financial means. These associations representing patients, defending LGBTQ+ rights clash in debates with conservative associations or medical associations, which considered that other researches should be on a higher priority than HIV. These demonstrations of different forms of power through these social or health crises underlines how the scientific research community or the medical community can easily be hijacked, influenced or encouraged by a political entity.

Regarding a current major health crisis, Ebola, an analysis of the actors in power would also be appreciated to study how different entities of power play a role in the disease regulation. Between some governments accused of diverting funds from research to the benefit of other sectors, public or private, or accusations of corruption, through the management of patients, they are various authorities and actors involved directly or not which participates in eliminating the disease. WHO regulations to prevent the spread of the disease, for example, have also played a different role: by equipping mandatory caregivers full protective clothing, populations, especially in countries in Africa have lost confidence in health centres and are not trusting caretaker anymore. Almost every day now, patients will no longer be treating themselves or will attack health centres because they consider that these centres contaminate more than they heal. The presence of different forms of authority, such as governments, WHO or populations, complicates the situation of the epidemic and can worsen the situation. This is why considering various forms of power in a health or social crisis is necessary to solve the crisis or understand it. Medicine and scientific research must, therefore, take into account how public policies will be adapted to be effective. Is this then, a new challenge for medicine and research today?

Power and the Antivax MovementEdit

Andrew Wakefield was a fully qualified, highly experienced physician, holding a degree from Imperial College Medical School, then St Mary's Hospital School. He had power in the sense that he was trusted as a medical professional to deliver information and guidance to the public on how best to take care of themselves. In 1998, Wakefield released a study saying that a group of 12 children had been given the MMR vaccine, and within two weeks had begun to show signs of autism [12]. Scientifically, the reliability of the study's methodology was dubious regardless of the conclusions; a sample size of twelve does not lend to representative results and no scientist could achieve vaguely similar results implying the study was not reproducible. Furthermore, the financial motive behind the apparently unrelated enquiry into whether some children had been harmed by the MMR vaccine for which Wakefield was paid by lawyers who had argued against vaccine-producing companies in the past [13] calls into question whether Wakefield's motives for the study were to provide accurate information, or biased information that benefits those who are paying him, hence skewing his results to be optimally beneficial [14]. Although many investigations were done to look into and eventually discredit Wakefield's study, and journals such as the British Medical Journal publishing articles stating the financial motives behind the conclusions, the damage had been done. Having been published on The Lancet, a prestigious, well-credited peer-reviewed journal, once the information went public it arguably caused MMR vaccination rates to drop between 2000-2004 to 79.9%, the lowest since the triple vaccine was introduced in 1990. The result of this was the incidences of measles in 2007-2008 being almost as high as the incidences for the previous eleven years combined [15]. The Hippocratic Oath is sworn by all doctors to uphold ethical standards and essentially states that doctors have a duty to care for their patients as people, without ever causing them harm or denying them help. By abusing his power of medical knowledge and the obligation held to him by members of the public, Wakefield not only violated this oath but also the trust of those who listened to him. His malpractice not only affected those who believed the results of his study but also those who did not, but cannot be vaccinated due to other health conditions such as a vaccine component allergy that may rely on herd immunity. Academic professionals must be cautious with how they present their findings and use their intellectual power, as it can never be predicted how one episode of either intentional or unintentional malpractice may affect so many people for years to come.

Power Structures in the SciencesEdit

Power can be defined as being able to have an effect on or as having authority or control over something [16]. Power structures often manifest through different forms of discrimination, and these are also prevalent in academia. In the Sciences, for instance, exisiting power structures are reflected by the underrepresentation of women and their structural disadvantage within the field.

Various research has shown that women are still significantly underrepresented in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) [17]. Additionally, female scientists have generally less career chances, higher positions usually remain in the hands of men [18] and the number of women publishing in renowned journals as well as a female first authorship trails male authorship [19].

The underlying causes for these gender discrepancies can be traced back to subtle sexist belief systems and structures. For instance, one potential cause for the difference between male and female authorship is thought to be the following: Women are less often chosen to supervise a research project for younger researchers because female success is not seen as having the same high standard as equivalent success of men [20]. In line with this is the assertion by the National Academics of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that women are underrepresented in Sciences because implicit stereotypes and gender-dependent assumptions underlie all interaction within the workspace. As a result, the academic culture systematically facilitates men's careers and impedes on women's professional pathway [21]

Power in Biology – Genetics and Human HierarchyEdit

Intended use of Genetic studiesEdit

Expand understanding how some diseases are influenced by genetics e.g. CF (Cystic fibrosis), Huntington’s disease, in an almost autonomous way through inheriting a mutated version. These diseases will be highly penetrant. Whereas in other cases, diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases, variables determining probability of diagnosis depends on interaction between multiple genes and the environment. In addition, having certain combination of genetic make-up may influence a person’s susceptibility to e.g. HIV, Influenza and other infectious pathogens. Cancer research is also heavily dependent on and related to genetics, which influence treatment and medication.

Economic Power through Development of GM producesEdit

GM crops introduced to farmers in rural communities of varying social structures and farming systems

Economic power with GM goods, exploit scale, GM-free private standards?

Increase cost for farmers and consumers, more profits to agricultural suppliers

Origin of the Notion of 'Race Science’Edit

Rooted from modern western sciences. Claim that there are evolutionary bases for disparities in social outcomes e.g. life expectancy, IQ, education, wealth, predisposed to violence etc. between racial groups.

Use as pseudoscience by alt-right to justify ethno-nationalist politics and contentions.

Research publications continued to be perpetuated by private funding and allow the idea of racial segregation to revive.

Notable historic case can be seen in The Holocaust, WWII Nazi Germany.

'Race Science' evolved and shifted into social science as the study of racism

Controversial use of Biotech – Eugenics and Human Genome ProjectEdit

Further ReadsEdit

Saini, A. (2019). Superior: The Return of Race Science. [online] HarperCollins Publishers. Available at:[Accessed 12 Nov. 2019].

Case Study: UCL to investigate eugenics conference secretly held on campus

Power and CorruptionEdit

Power's definition and application has many effects which can be studied in the social sciences. According to an article from the online newspaper Smithsonian[22], power brings out both the best and the worst in people. The article first relies on a well-known psychological experiment carried out in the Stanford Prison in 1971 (SPE). This experiment[23] focused on the relation between prisoners and prisoners officers which was ruled by power. This social psychology experiment led by Philip Zimbardo lasted 6 days where students were assigned either of the 2 roles in a mock prison. The "guards" quickly started to abuse from their position ; enforcing authoritarian measures and even psychological torture to their fellow students. Some "prisoners" accepted the embodiment while others rebelled. This experiment's outcomes show that power influences people and they may not even realize its consequence on their behavior.

Power can bring the best but also the worst in people, the difficulty of its enactment lies in the balance of self-interest and the common good. If a good person, who therefore wishes to stick to his/her moral identity (in a sense where compassion, fairness and generosity are seen as fundamental), is given some amount of power, this person will only do good. On the other hand, power can bring the worst in people and historical events such as the development of authoritarian regimes in the 1930's is a proof. Corruption can arise and spread, it all relies on the person who was given the most responsability and power.

Power challenges the mental strength of human beings, as it tests a person's character and will to affect others. When someone is given power, their reaction evolves regarding the circumstances ; why was it given ? how was it given ? legally or not ? in a peaceful way ? and so on... Usually, people react according to pre-existing tendencies which shape their feelings towards the power they are given.

Power in PharmaceuticsEdit

Power can be defined as the ability of an individual or group to exert control over other people or events. [24] Power can be exercised via inequalities such as colonialism, racism and sexism.

Power manifests in pharmaceutical industry as a phenomenon called biopiracy. Biopiracy refers to the illegal or improper appropriation of traditional pharmaceutical knowledge and biological materials from indigenous cultures by pharmaceutical companies. [25] In biopiracy, academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies exploit traditional knowledge from indigenous communities or the biodiversity of developing regions in an exploitative, unfair manner or without informed consent from these communities for commercial purposes. Pharmaceutical companies proceed to use the obtained traditional medical knowledge to file patent applications. The significance of this is that when pharmaceutical companies develop drugs from the application of the knowledge exploited from indigenous peoples, only the patent-holding company is allowed to manufacture, market and profit from these drugs for a period of time, such as 20 years in the United States. [26] As a result, indigenous peoples would lose the right to produce drugs from their own traditional medical knowledge, thus affecting their ability to profit financially and derive health benefits from such knowledge. Through biopiracy, groups such as academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies exert control over indigenous peoples in developing regions by depriving them of the right to profit from and improve their wellbeing with the medical knowledge they rightfully discovered. Thus, pharmaceutical companies can be described as exerting their power unfairly over indigenous communities and developing countries through the act of biopiracy.

Power in Medicine and healthEdit

Health Inequality By Race And Social ClassEdit

Quality of health among young adults ([27]) has been shown to be generally contingent on social class, measured by various factors. Most important were deemed to be whether students were given free school meals, how crowded the area was, the quality of housing, and how large their family was. It was determined that factors such as family situation were not as important. Lack of employment in the family has been shown to prove deteriorating mental health primarily among men but also in women. Similarly, race has been shown to be associated with the quality of healthcase received. Poorer heath outcomes in preterm babies and their families were observed in the USA for black people and ethnic minorities ([28]).

Health Inequality by Gender/ SexEdit

Leadership positions in branches of healthcare associated with women, medical disciplines such as obstetrics and gynaecology, are still mostly occupied by men. Although this is demonstrative of an inequality of leadership positions in most disciplines, this inequality was deemed above 'historical sex imbalances among physicians entering (this) speciality', and above normal discrepancies ([29]) .The discrepancy in leadership positions affects discourse on issues of the female body that has historically permeated through science. For example, Emily Martin [30] argues that biological discourse on the female reproductive system has been historically critical as 'wasteful' and 'inferior', based on the fact that hundreds of thousands of eggs decay and are 'wasted' from birth to menopause, while omitting the fact that males produce hundreds of millions of sperm are also 'wasted'.

Martin also notes that curiosity over the female reproductive system has caused it to become selectively scrutinised far more than the male reproductive system. It is this same lack of investigative vigour over medical issues beyond the gender boundary history that means issues common to both men and women are primarily studied in men. Male reactions to drugs and disease ([31]), have been considered the standard in medical research up until 1993 in the United States, whereas now federal guidelines from the National Institute of Health require both men and women to be studied. Due to historically male-focused research, our knowledge of heart attacks in women is far less advanced, for example that women typically exhibit different symptoms to men. The American Heart Association only issued a statement on heart attacks in women in 2016 ([32]).

Even after women have been used in clinical trials after these federal reports, a GAO report found that the results are not differentiated by gender, averaging the data thus 'serving neither men nor women' ([33] , [34]), despite the evidence that many conditions and responses to treatment vary on average by gender/sex. Approaches to health are therefore subject to gendered and un-gendered bias. On the one hand, there are gendered assumptions and narratives created about women's health in respect to men's health, yet women's health is still based on a huge catalogue of research featuring only male participants.

Power in Soviet RussiaEdit

For over 25 years the Soviet Union has been in historical limelights especially in the concepts of power. Power is an essential aspect of the governance of a given country. The Soviet Union in Russia is known as an organized unit of power that controls systems, governments and links nations[35]. Power in Soviet Russia is defined in various ways and ideas that make up the agency.

Soviet RolesEdit

Soviet Russia is a single unit of governance that does not delegate roles. That is, their soviet power is autonomous. The Soviet Union has political influence and governance both in Russia and globally. Soviet Union unit is controlled with few members of the people, who make all decisions from minor to major governmental issues.

The Soviet Union and GovernanceEdit

Power in Soviet Russia is also reflected in through the control of government business. Soviet Union power is evidence of the agency operations as the unit. Soviet Russia always directs and dominates the government business of the USSR.

Soviets and major DisciplinesEdit

The power of the Soviet Union is also reflected in various disciplines of life[36]. For instance, the agency influences discoveries in neuropsychopharmacology and policies. The agency looks into the effects of the drug on women and men across the world. Additionally, the Soviet Union exhibits power in medical research, determining and taking part in world decisions concerning medical researches.

The Soviet Union and TechnologyEdit

The power of the Soviet Union for a long period has been reflected in technological advances thus earning the spot in world politics. For agency has made development and advancement in technology through interpretation and applying various concepts in physics, chemistry, and astronomy.

Soviet and RestrictionsEdit

In early 1900 the agency had taken keen notice on pseudo scientists and discoverers that were up to no good[37]. The agency used its powers to create a restriction on mediocre discoveries in the field of science and went ahead to offer a solution by generating various theories and discoveries to solve world problems.


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