Power comes in several forms in Hard Times. On the one hand, the numerous factory workers represent a tremendous force, both in terms of their ability to operate machinery and produce goods, and in their ability to band together to form a union and go on strike. On the other hand, in their collective form they are viewed by their employers as disposable and almost non-human. This is made evident in the term "Hands," which reduces them to a single, non-thinking, non-emotional body part. The workers are patronized by the government and by ostensibly charitable organizations that study, analyze, and criticize their drinking, church-going, parenting, and any other quantifiable behavior.
The novel is deeply committed to a passive resistance strategy. No weak character is ever shown overcoming an obstacle through gathering strength; instead, if he/she prevails, it is only through the interference of others, luck, or turning the other cheek.
The main way the novel demonstrates power is in the brutal, non-subtle way it hammers home its ideas. There is no one more powerful than the narrator, and no one weaker than the reader who cannot help but go along with the stark presentation of characters and plot.