SENTENCE: These capilliaries of power can be so innocuous, even commonsensical, as to be undetectable.

I think what confuses me most is the "as to be" part of the sentence and I'm not sure when to use it because I don't fully understand how to use it. I think what this sentence is saying is: power is such an intuitive, low-key part of society that people don't notice it.


A dictionary defintion of the idiom is "Similar enough to something as to become it." It is generally used in a pattern "X is so Y as to be Z"

It can often be replaced with "... that it is ...", in your example (slightly edited):

These capillaries of power are so innocuous that they are undetectable.

Capillaries are the smallest blood veins, and capillaries of power is a metaphor, power is imagined to be flowing into every part of society the way that blood flow from the heart to the smallest muscle. Innocuous means "having no harmful effect". So I think your interpretation is correct.


Something can be so X as to {VERB} + {COMPLEMENT}

Here are some example uses:

Tea can be so hot as to be undrinkable.

Siblings can look so much alike as to be mistaken for each other.

so + {QUALITY} means "possessing {quality} to such a degree". The pattern is often complemented by a clause that expresses the result or implications of having the said quality to such a degree. as to + VERB is just one of the ways of complementing it.

The days were so torrid as to present a real risk of heat-stroke.

The days were so hot, (that) we could never play tennis after breakfast-time.

He was so skilled as to have every expectation of being a first-round NBA draft-pick.

He was so quick and deadly with the jab as to be a definite contender for the middleweight boxing title.

The train was so unpredictable as to be a totally useless and unreliable way to get to work on time.

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