How Much Power Does An Individual Have?

It can be difficult to properly judge the role of an individual in our society.

On one hand, one person can feel completely powerless. With institutions like political parties or religious groups consisting of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, an individual has a limited voice. Some individuals, due to wealth or fame, can influence many people all at once, but if you are not one of those people, what recourse do you have?

Alternately, in our culture we often mythologize the lone creator. Steve Jobs was Apple, Jeff Bezos is Amazon, and Elon Musk is Tesla. We often associate an individual with large and powerful groups, even when it isn’t proper to do so.

Amazon, for example, is a huge company, filled with innovative people. Jeff Bezos didn’t design or build the Kindle. He didn’t develop or program the Amazon Web Services. He doesn’t fulfill orders, doesn’t make deals with distributors, doesn’t manage inventory. There are thousands of people employed by Amazon to do all of these tasks and more.

One of the greatest talents one person can have, however, is the ability to inspire others. One person can inspire a second to join them, and a third, and so on. That’s the ability that Steve Jobs had, and why our society revered him.

Everything that happens in our culture is done by individuals. A song becomes a hit because individuals listen to it. A book becomes a best seller because individuals each buy a copy. A movie is culturally significant because people — one person at a time — think it is.

Who really wields the power, the crowd or the people who make up the crowd? How much power does an individual have?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? Why do we feel the need to belong? How important is the artist to art? Where does authority come from?