How should we conceptualise parental power and how can it be evaluated? In this chapter, I will examine what is, I argue, an irreducible plurality of forms of power itself. We can and should distinguish power to (power as capacity) from power over (power as affecting others and producing effects for others), and both of these from power with (power exercised together so as to achieve a shared objective). Within the ‘power over’ category, I also distinguish coercion, interference with liberty, control, authority, and paternalism. I argue that ‘power to’ and ‘power with’ are not in themselves morally objectionable; it is only when power is exercised over others that we may find reasons to object. When it comes to normative evaluation, in the main, we should judge what parents do with their power, that is, the type of power they exercise and what impacts it has, not whether parents have more capacity than their children. Nonetheless, taking on board the critical insight of Foucauldian sociology, I accept that, in one of its guises, power in and of itself requires justification, independently of its being put into action. A relationship of authority, where one party commands and the other obeys, is an asymmetrical power relation, and such asymmetry, for instance between parents and children, requires normative justification.
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