Power Lust

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By Chuks Andrew Nwankwo


Society is a place for competition. Human beings leverage their power in different contexts and through a diverse set of modes. The choice is either to fight for power, to serve as a leader of a community, or to accept power from another source. Most of the time, people will fight for power because they do not want to serve under the dictatorship of another human being. As the desire for power grows, human beings strive to gain as much as they can to be at the top.

Power and human nature

In recent times the literature on the problem of power in its various aspects has grown immensely. Wars and their aftermaths are apt to stimulate or to dramatize the role of the power-factor in human relationship. Every war implies a temporary rediscovery of power which in long periods of peace and prosperity tend to disappear below the horizon of people’s attention, or to be considered a gradually diminishing and finally vanishing phenomenon.

Idealistic power – interpretations were, generally speaking abundant up to and including the optimistic sequel of the First World War, the League of Nations – period. The rise of the so-called totalitarian states on the European continent and their aggressive hostility towards some basic elements of traditional Western civilization marked the beginning of some important changes in the general interpretation of power by social-scientists and philosophers.

In our atomic age, it is no longer possible to adhere to any utopian viewpoint regarding the nature and the role of power. There are no signs of a kind of national historical process of vaporization or wear and tear, in the course of which power is gradually eliminated, so that finally only night, humanity, freedom, and everlasting peace would remain. All linear ideologies reconstructing history as a continuous process of rationalization (“from superstition to knowledge,” “from despotism to freedom,” “From particularism to cosmopolitanism,” “from thinking in terms of substance to thinking in terms of function” etc) are suspect, and the line of “perfectionist escapism” has come to an end.

In Nigeria, it is seen that to achieve political power, the politicians get ready to form alliance with each other. But sometimes, those that joined together, do not have common ideology and this give rise to opportunism and expediency.

In China, Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung started the infamous Cultural Revolution; uprooting millions of people in the process – later on the next generation of Chinese leaders crushed the simmering opposition by enacting the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Adolf Hitler in Germany too was similarly drunk with lust for power to look at the enormity of destruction caused in the World War II.

In West Bengal, the Naxalbari movement turned notorious and eventually died down due to factionalism among its leader who were individually pursuing their desire to achieve power by leading the movement as the supreme one. They enjoyed wielding power so much that they incited the cadres to kill anybody who opposed.

Even in post-liberation days, community leaders were ruthless in their approach to the reconstruction of their country. The name of Russian leader Joseph Stalin comes to mind in this connection.

The striving for power is an aboriginal human impulse, perhaps even an animal impulse, which blindly snatches at everything around until it comes up against same external barriers, And, in the case of men at least, the impulse is not restricted solely to what is directly necessary for life and health. Man takes a wholehearted pleasure in power itself and through it, in himself and his heightened personality

Power is naturally active, vigilant, and distrustful, which qualities in it push it upon all means and expedients to fortify itself, and upon destroying all opposition, and even all seeds of opposition, and make it restless as long as anything stands in its way. It would do what it pleases, and even all seed of opposition, and make it restless as long as anything stands in its way. It would do what it please, and have stands in its way. It would do what it please and have no check. Now, because liberty chatises and shortens power, therefore power would extinguish liberty, and consequently liberty has too much cause to be exceeding jealous, and always upon her defence. Power has many advantages over her, it has generally numerous guards, many creatures, and much treasure; beside, it has more craft and experience, less honesty and innocence: and whereas power can, and for the most part does, subsist where liberty is not, liberty cannot subsist without power; so that she has, as it were, the enemy always at her gates.

Bertrand Russell believed that virtue and morality play little part in political life. Rather, what most drives us to action, he argued, is selfish desire. Russell’s political philosophy could seem almost Machiavellian, most notably in his Nobel Prize speech 1950, in which he proclaims that “all human activity is prompted by desire”.

There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralist to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral from a sense of duty, but because duty has hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful.

Russell’s argument about desire admits “There is no limit to the  efforts that men will make, or to the violence that they will display” in the face of perceived scarcity, and his observations call not only the realpolitik of Machiavelli, but the insights of that most prominent theorist of desire, Sigmund Freud.

Man differs from animals in one very important respect, and that is that he has some desires which are, so to speak, infinite, which can never be fully gratified and which would keep him restless even in paradise. The boa constrictor, when he has had an adequate meal, goes to sleep and does not wake until he needs another meal. Human beings, for the most part, are not like this

Rather than libidinous instincts, however, Russell names four main political desire that cannot be satisfied: (1) Acquisitiveness (the wish to possess as much as possible) (ii) Rivalry (a much stronger motive) (iii) Vanity (a motive of immense potency), and (iv) Love of power (which outweighs them all).


Conclusively, humans all desire power, and every single one desires different types of power makes people feel different because it gives them what they want. Human desire never ends, so power can never achieve all of a human’s wants… they desire power to do things that they want and their goals are endless.

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