HCE Toolkit


The asymmetric capacity of a person, group, institution, social system or technology to structure or alter the behavior of others. Scientific and technological power is intertwined with political power.


“Power” draws students’ attention to the ways science and technology are involved in making social order. 

A fundamental feature of all social relationships, power is a uniquely capacious and contested concept. We talk about power for many different reasons. First and foremost it draws attention to the relationships between those groups and institutions who are empowered to act and make decisions in a given situation, and those whose capacity to act is shaped and constrained by the former. In other words, power creates, constrains, defines, and distributes agency across social relationships. Who gets to act or decide? Whose actions or decisions are shaped and limited, and what’s involved in shaping and limiting them?

Although it is common to consider power only in terms of coercion, domination, or hierarchy, it also refers to the ways in which individuals and groups can be “empowered” to act. It’s not just about having or losing power, but about what’s involved in making and maintaining social actions and relationships.

HCE Toolkit