Power over, power to, power with: Shifting perceptions of power for local economic development in the Philippines

Amanda Cahill*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Power has long been recognised as crucial to the sustainability of community development interventions; however, the way in which space affects power relations within such interventions has remained relatively under-theorised in the development literature. Many practitioners continue to regard power as located centrally and as embedded in particular institutions, networks, knowledge and resources. According to this logic, processes of empowerment involve the redistribution of these resources to marginalised groups through their participation in development interventions such as microfinance and sustainable livelihood initiatives. The danger inherent in such development approaches is that they can discourage the potential for participants to use their own agency by overemphasising an existing lack of resources locally and inadvertently feeding a sense of dependency on formal development interventions initiated by external agencies. This paper suggests that a post-structural conceptualisation of power as dynamic, multiple and mediated at the local level offers a more productive starting point for thinking about approaches to empowerment. Drawing on data from an action research project designed to initiate community enterprises in a small rural municipality in the Philippines, I suggest how a post-structural approach to power can be enacted by building on the existing local resources and practices of everyday life.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)294-304
    Number of pages11
    JournalAsia Pacific Viewpoint
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


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