When I went to Stockholm School of Economics in the 1980s, I took a course on leadership and one of the books I read, Jeffrey Pfeffer´s Power in Organisations, had a sociological perspective. According to the book, power can be seen as deriving from the division of labour that occurs as task specialization is implemented in organizations. When the overall tasks of the organization are divided into smaller parts, it is inevitable that some tasks will come to be more important than others.
Those persons and those units that have the responsibility for performing the more critical asks in the organization have a natural advantage in developing and exercising power. Although individual skills and strategies can certainly affect the amount of power and the effectiveness with which it is used, power is first and foremost a structural phenomenon, and one manifestation of power, is through the use of space.
Throughout history, hierarchy and power has shown itself through the way we design our places, from the Pyramids of Egypt to the Palatine Hill in Rome and the White House in Washington and the Elysee Palace in Paris, and their location in the settlement and city context.
In the Future of Places conference this week, Professor Jeffrey Fleisher of Rice University in Texas gave a speech on the multiple histories of public space, and as he talked my mind wandered back to the book I read in the 1980s on manifestations of power through use of space, and I also thought about the Vucedol culture and their main space, for which we are currently working on a feasibility study.
Take a look at Professor Fleisher’s speech below, and see what reflections you make, as the images of Stonehenge, the Maya temples and other historic places of centre and might are shown on the screen.
Professor Fleisher’s areas of specialization are the archaeology of Tanzania, Eastern and Southern Africa, and the Indian Ocean Rim, and he is interested in Old World archaeology, African archaeology and ethnography, political economy, landscape and regional archaeology, urbanization, household studies, ceramics, urban space, materiality of ritual, and social memory.
His current research is focused on the role of rural and non-elite populations in the political economy of small-scale complex societies, and the way that people use material culture and space in the establishment and maintenance of social inequality and power.