Absolute power is the power to make oneself unpredictable and deny other people any reasonable anticipation, to place them in total uncertainty by offering no scope to their capacity to predict. This power, an extreme that is never reached except in the theological imagination, with the unjust omnipotence of a wicked God, frees its possessor from the experience of time as powerlessness. The all-powerful is he who does not wait but who makes others wait.
Waiting is one of the privileged ways of experiencing the effect of power, and the link between time and power—and one would need to catalogue, and analyze, all the behaviours associated with the exercise of power over other people’s time both on the side of the powerful (adjourning, deferring, delaying, raising false hopes, or conversely, rushing, taking by surprise) and on the side of the ‘patient’, as they say in the medical universe, one of the sites par excellence of anxious, powerless waiting. Waiting implies submission: the interested aiming at something greatly desired durably—that is to say, for the whole duration of the expectancy—modifies the behavior of the person who ‘hangs’, as we say, on the awaited decision. It follows that the art of ‘taking one’s time’, of ‘letting time take its time’, as Cervantes puts it, of making people wait, of delaying without destroying hope, of adjourning without totally disappointing, which would have the effect of killing the waiting itself, is an integral part of the exercise of power—especially in the case of powers which, like academic power, depend significantly on the belief of the ‘patient’ and which work on and through aspirations, on and through time, by controlling time and the rate of fulfillment of expectations (‘he has time’, ‘he’s young or ‘too young’, ‘he can wait’, is sometimes an academic verdict left to speak for itself): an art of ‘turning down’ without ‘turning off’, of keeping people ‘motivated’ without driving them to despair.
Pierre Bordieu, Pascalian Mediations (Richard Nice trans., Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), pp. 228-29.