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Leadership and power in an ethnic community Tryggvason, Gustav

Abstract

One of the significant problems investigated by social scientists in recent years is the question of how power is used in the community. The presence of power has generally been taken for granted; with the main research and analytical effort being concentrated on identifying and explaining the actions of those members of the community, i.e., the leaders, who are thought to possess power. Their ability to operate effectively within the community is generally interpreted as a reflection of their use of power, i.e., their ability to impose their will upon others, with or without having to overcome direct or indirect opposition in the process of doing so. Such studies as have been carried out have usually been conducted in communities which are easily identified as communities, such as a city or a town. There are, however, other types of communities, one of which is the ethnic community or sub-community. Ethnic communities, such as those generally found in Canada, are a result of the desire of the members of specific ethnic groups to continue to share some or all of their activities with people of the same origin. In such communities the actions of the leaders may be based on several factors, none of which is comparable to the power which leaders in other types of communities may possess or are believed to possess. Extensive field work was conducted in the Icelandic ethnic community in the Greater Vancouver area, beginning in the fall of 1965 and continuing for some three years. Data was gathered initially through interviews with the members of this community and subsequently by direct observation of and participation in the activities of this community and its leaders. The analysis of the data obtained indicates that the leaders of such a sub-community do not and cannot relie upon an ability to impose their will upon others. Put in other words, the leaders of such a sub-community lack power. Their ability to operate effectively is largely a result of the fact that their actions vis-a-vis the community are restricted to those which will receive voluntary support from the members of the community.

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