Power is exerted in successive layers of subsidiarity of governance, from the family through to global organisations
Individuals exercise power, and are constrained by it, in each dimension of governance – and each dimension has its own subsidiarity, as illustrated:
The proportions of the diagram are constrained by the need for it to be readable, with the result is that it gives a misleading sense of the relative importance of each layer of subsidiarity of governance:
● Having a wider scope doesn’t imply having more power.
● A great deal of political power is concentrated at national level in the Western world, whereas multinational and global governance is much less robust.
● Whereas domains of legal and political power mostly have geographical boundaries, economic power and moral influence traverse political boundaries.
● An individual person’s influence, upon those who have been granted power, is proportionally less in the larger domains of control.
The following sub-sections explore further aspects of subsidiarity:
● Different types of power are exercised in domains whose boundaries may overlap or be diffuse (2.8.1).
● Not all power flows down through a hierarchy; some forms of authority are empowered by agreement from below. Power can flow upwards or downwards, or it can be pooled (2.8.2).
● There are limits on the degree of authority that can be exercised in any domain (2.8.3).
● The topic of centralisation, the arguments for and against it, is briefly examined (2.8.4).
● A detailed example, of law enforcement, illustrates how subsidiarity works in practice (2.8.5).
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/28.htm.