In an interesting study, that was recently reported in a NY Times article, psychologists at the University of Florida have found that humans seem to have a limited store of will power. If some of a person’s will power is used up in one task, they have less of it left over for another task. The study also found that exercising and strengthening one’s will power in one area, generally made it stronger to be used in other areas as well.
In a curious way, I think that the conclusions of this study will stand up to more generalization. Empowerment, for instance. I don’t think we have separate compartments for empowerment in different areas with no interplay between them. Despite the compartmentalized terms that we use for the phenomenon, like politically disempowered, socially disempowered or economically disempowered, empowerment (or a feeling of it) in one area, is connected to, and begets, empowerment in others.
As an example, think about the set of people who are relatively easy to mobilize in the event of a ethnic or communal riot. Unemployed youth. Individuals who are economically disadvantaged, and perhaps consequentially, politically and socially too. Is it not easy for such a person to feel temporarily powerful, at least at a very basic, physical level, when wielding weapons against and cowing down numerous powerless opponents, while being safely ensconced in the immunity provided by a mob? And, also, since might is (still) right, this temporary assumption of power then begets a larger amount of empowerment for the better mobilized, more violent side in the conflict.
At the heart of it, is simply an individual, who is trying to fill up his or her depleted store of empowerment.