Thoughts on how education, learning, and knowledge is really about the power structure, with remarks about traits of a power structure

In a conversation we were talking about all the years I spent as a full time student in college/university (if my memory is correct it is one semester short of 7 years).  I then said something interesting:

“All I learned in college/university is that education, learning, and knowledge is the minion of a power structure.  Their primary purpose is as a means for people to gain from that power structure.”

What this means is that education, learning, and knowledge is nothing without a power structure.  It depends on that power structure and relies on it.  Without that power structure education, learning, and knowledge, is worthless.  To be educated really means that you are a minion to the power structure which means you are usually seeking to gain from it. 


A person wants to be a minion of the power structure in order to gain from that power structure.  Some common forms of this gain include:

  • Social status
  • Prestige
  • Money
  • Influence
  • Power

What this means is that education is primarily about gain, not truth or learning.  This is exactly what my years at college/university says.  People are not seeking “truth”.  They are not seeking knowledge.  They are not seeking learning.  My observation is that most people aren’t even that interested in what they are studying!  It is all a means to an end.  People are only seeking what gives them gain.  If there was nothing to be gained by education very few people would pursue it.  I’d say that this is true for most of the people but not everyone.


Education, learning, and knowledge is only one form of power structure in this society. But, in the last 200 years, there has developed a great power structure based on them.  Much of this is based on the growth of science and its effects on industry, business, and other things.  As a result, it has attracted many people to this new “knowledge-based power structure”.  This power structure tends to be based on these things:

  • Applying existing knowledge.  This is the most prevalent and, it seems to me, consists of the main activity of the “knowledge-based power structure”.  This makes it somewhat easy in that all a person has to do is learn the existing knowledge and how to apply it.  One could say that the applying of existing knowledge is the “mainstay” of the “knowledge-based power structure” and is what has allowed so many people to gain from it.
  • Creating new knowledge.  This is much rarer but, at times, can become very powerful, giving people incredible power, at least for a time, as it seems that power from newly created knowledge is temporary.  In my opinion, though, I tend to think that most new knowledge isn’t as impactful as it may, at first, seem.  This is because any newly created knowledge is basically useless until it can somehow benefit the power structure.  Most newly created knowledge has no value to the power structure and, accordingly, falls to the wayside.  In fact, I tend to think that most of the knowledge being discovered is completely wasted.  For every knowledge that has value there’s probably several thousand that becomes forgotten and is wasted.  This shows that “power is everything”.

Over the past 200 years it has gained an incredible power.  It may very well be the greatest power system in history!  Its probably no surprise, then, that people as if latch onto the “knowledge-based power structure” much like leeches, sucking the life out of it, trying to gain from whatever it offers.  In many ways, that’s what many students are . . . leeches on the power structure, or at least that’s how it appeared to me (and that’s how I felt too).  Once they get a job then they become a part of the power structure.  Typically, they will stay with it only if the gain continues.  Once the gain is gone interest tends to leave.  Some ways gain decreases in a “knowledge-based power structure” include:

  • New things appear offering new forms of power and gain
  • Things get old, out of date, and loose their “oomph” and influence
  • There is no opportunity which is often because there are too many people trying to gain in the same field
  • The people in power have found ways to restrict other people getting into their “power field”


This brought on many questions about the power structure, what it is, and its influence.  I would define it this way:

A power structure is a system created by society to serve some end.  It has power because it serves the social system and, therefore, has the force of society behind it.  It is a structure because it is organized.  This organization serves the power.  The power structure, then, taps into the force of society.


Some qualities about power structure include:

  • The power structure is in continual change and alteration.  One could say that a lot of the effort of many things in society is trying to follow the ever changing power structure.  A good example is business, which continually is trying to follow the power structure of economy and money flow.
  • Any society has many forms of power structures.  There isn’t just one form.
  • There is usually a dominant power structure in a society.
  • The “power” behind the power structure is elusive.  It seems that no one really “taps” the power.  Rather, people develop an “association” with the power structure.
  • How you gain from the power structure depends on your “association” with it.  Oftentimes, the fight for gain is usually based in putting yourself in a better  position of “association” than other people.
  • The power structure has its own way of looking at things that one must conform to.  Generally, if a person does not conform to it then they do not gain from what the power structure offers.  In fact, they often become outcasts.
  • Because people must follow the power structure it has a tendency to turn people into “minions”, “leeches”, or slaves to it.
  • The power structure generally requires one to conform to be a part of it.  A person must do what it requires.
  • Because the power structure has its own way of looking at things it tends to become a “world unto itself”.  
  • The more power there is in the power structure the more stricter, narrower, and limited it usually becomes.  This means that there is more of a tendency to not benefit and become outcasts.  As a result, there is often more of a scramble to fight for gain.
  • The more powerful the power structure the more it tend to view itself as representing the world.  Oftentimes, it thinks that its “right”.


The power structure varies with each society, depending on factors such as:

  • The social structure – tradition, culture, beliefs, religion, etc.
  • The conditions – peacetime/wartime, rich/poor, etc.
  • Developments in the society – things that are currently affecting it
  • Growth – more people often means more power
  • How the power structure is organized

The power structure culture

As I said above, a power structure creates its own way of looking at things.  That is to say, it has its own culture.  This is the “power structure culture”.  Just like any culture it has qualities such as:

  • A belief system
  • An authority structure
  • A specific way of looking at things
  • A unifying quality

Benefits of a power structure

Because the power structure is associated with the social system it often tends to benefit society. It does this a number of ways:

  • It gives unity in the society
  • It establishes a power structure in the society
  • It harnesses various powers in the society
  • It gives direction to the society

One could very well say that society needs a power structure to keep it together.  Without a power structure there is no society.  This is one reason why a power structure is so powerful and has such impact.

Its through the power structure that many people gain power in society.  As a result, it becomes the “center” for “power games”.  The effect of this can range from good to bad.  On the good end these “power games” can actually develop and improve society.  On the bad end it can turn society into a “crap shoot”, of people fighting and scrambling for power.  This could bring societies down.

Problems with the power structure

The nature of the power structure tends to develop problems.  Some of these include:

  • It creates a one-sided or linear mentality
  • It creates a condition where a person must conform or do what it says
  • It tends to favor certain people
  • It tends to forget or neglect certain people
  • It can cause a condition where people scramble for power

The natural effect of a power structure is that it tends to cause what can be described as a “strangulation” of society.  If the power structure is particularly powerful then it can literally strangle the society to death and can even bring it down.  I tend to believe that many problems in societies are caused by, or originate from, the strangulating effects of a power structure.  

When I was at college/university I believe that I saw this strangulating quality and its effects.  Basically, the whole knowledge-based power structure is strangulating itself to death in a number of ways:

  • There are too many stipulations, requirements, etc. (you have to have a 3.8 GPA, must have this or that degree, must do what the professor requires, etc.)
  • There are too many favoritisms and too much neglect (only certain people are favored, such as people with specific degree’s or high GPA’s . . . everyone else is “marginalized” and “trivialized”)
  • It is too organized
  • It is too rigid 
  • There are too many “power games” and “scrambling for power”
  • There are too many ulterior motives (such as the fact that people are only looking for gain)

Its seems, to me, that the whole knowledge-based power structure is strangulating itself to death.  This basically means that there is too much money and power behind knowledge, nowadays, and this is undermining it all

Peoples association with the power structure

Because of the power of the power structure, there is much power to be had in a persons association with it.  As a result, in a society people have to develop an association with the power structure, at least in some way.  One could very well say that to be a member of a society a person must have some form of association with the power structure.  There are several ways a person associates with the power structure:

  • Active – people who deliberately seek gain.  Because the power structure is social based a person can gain, socially, from “tapping” that power structure.  As a result, in any society, people are always trying to “tap” the existing power structure in some way.  People put forth great effort to accomplish this task and even make a life out of it. It can create something like a “mad scramble” to seek gain where people are climbing over each other in order to gain over the other person.  In this way, they become like leeches to the power structure.
  • Passive – people who follow and serve.  Because we all live in a society we all end up serving the power structure, at least to some extent, in order to survive.  This often creates a sense that “we don’t have a choice” but follow the power structure.  Many people can sense this and there often develops a contempt of the power structure, particularly if one can see that one does not gain and others do.  Many people just develop an attitude of “following along”, “doing whatever it takes”, or of “tolerating it”.

Since the power structure is removed from us, and a separate entity, people have to follow it.  This has a tendency, oftentimes, of turning people into things such as:

  • Minions
  • Slaves
  • Leeches

The net result is that the following of the power structure has a tendency to make people “small”.  This often gives an ironic quality to the power structure in that people follow the power structure in order to gain power but, in gaining power, they actually become “small” people.  

The importance of conformism

As I said above, a person must conform in order to be a part of the power structure.  This shows that a power structure is a system of conformism.  This means that anyone who associates with a power structure tends to be a “conformist”.


This conformism is seen in education, learning, and knowledge and is what I saw at the college/university.  In this way, we could reword my statement above as:

“What I really learned at the college/university is conformism to the power structure.”

The subject matter, the “stuff of learning”, is just the means of that conformism.

When one looks at education, learning, and knowledge what does one really do?  One “conforms their mind”, as I always say.  Education, learning, and knowledge is nothing but the “conforming of ones mind” to the established facts, information, and patterns of thinking of the power structure.  What is a test but a confirmation that our mind has been “conformed” properly?


As I said above, the power structure has a culture with its own ways and points of views.  This culture then “colors” the subject matter, or knowledge, and dictates truth.  It actually ends up creating a new form of truth, the “power structure truth”.  This means that its “truth” is only “true” in the realm of the power structure.  Since the power structure tends to create a “world unto itself” its “truth” tends to be limited to that world.  In this way, the “power structure truth” is not an all-encompassing world truth, which it often claims to be.  This, in a way, is the hypocrisy of education, learning, and knowledge . . . it professes to be more than it is.  Its power is not in its “truth” but in its association with the power structure.


What all this means is that education, learning, and knowledge is about things like:

  • It is about “conforming” to a power structure and the “power structure culture”. 
  • The power structure that is being conformed to is a “knowledge-based power structure”. 
  • If a person conforms then a person often gains from it. 
  • Often, in following a power structure, a person becomes a minion to it and, accordingly, becomes “small” as a result.
  • The actual subject matter is secondary to the power structure and its culture. 
  • The “truth” is dictated by the power structure.
  • The “truth” is only relevant if the power structure is in power.

That’s basically what I learned at college/university.  The subject matter was just “incidental information”.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education, learning, and over education, Modern life and society, Society and sociology, The 'system', 'systemism', and the power structure, Twenty first century and post cold war society and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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