882 Words Essay on Power – One of the Pillars of Society

(ii) As Ian Robertson says, “power is the capacity to participate effectively in a decision-making process”.

(iii) According to N.J. Demerath III and Gerald Marwell, “power may be defined as the capac­ity to get things done despite obstacles and resistance”.

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It may be pointed out that there are many types of power and many ways of overcoming resistance. “One can threaten, cajole, influence, coerce, wheedle, persuade, beg, blackmail, and inspire, etc., to get his things done. But power on a large scale is almost always embedded within organisational structures whether they be governments, political parties, business firms, schools, churches, or pro­test movements.” “In each of these settings power involves a kind of gamble. Because there is al­ways the risk that the people in power will betray the common trust”. Demerath, and Marwell

Power may be exercised blatantly or subtly, legally or illegally, justly or unjustly. It may derive from many sources, such as wealth, status, prestige, numbers, or organisational efficiency. Its ulti­mate basis, however, is the ability to compel obedience, if necessary through the threat or use of force.

Social power has been identified in different ways with prestige, influence, eminence, compe­tence, dominance, rights, strength, force, and authority.

(i) Power and Prestige are closely linked. As Ross said, “The class that has the most prestige will have the most power”. It can be said that the powerful groups tend to be prestigious and presti­gious groups powerful.

(ii) Knowledge, eminence, skill, and competence-all contribute to prestige, but they need not necessarily accompany power. If at all power is accompanied by these factors then the association is only incidental

(iii) Power and influence are more intimately connected. Still they are different. Influence is persuasive whereas power is coercive. We submit voluntarily to influence but power requires our submission. They are, so as to say, independent variables. Influence does not require power and power may dispense with influence.

(iv) Power and dominance are also to be distinguished. Power is a sociological, and dominance a psychological phenomenon. The locus of power is in both persons and groups, and in important cases it is in the latter.

But dominance is a function of personality or of temperament. It is a personal trait. It is also possible to find dominant individuals playing roles in powerless groups and submis­sive individuals playing roles in powerful ones. Power is one thing and dominance quite another.

(v) Power and Rights: Rights are more closely associated with privileges and with authority than they are with power. A right is one of the prerequisites of power and not power itself. One may have a right without the power to exercise it. The man who has the power rarely waits for the right to use it.

A right always requires some support in the social structure. No individual can successfully claim a right that is unrecognised in the law and non-existent in the mores. Rights in general, like privileges, duties, obligations, responsibilities, etc., are attached to the statuses. Whereas, power does not necessarily require the backing of the status.

(vi) Power, Force and Authority. Power is not force and power is not authority, but it is related to both. As Robert Bierstedt said, “Power is latent force; force is manifest power, and authority is institutionalized power.” Power is the prior capacity that makes the use of force possible.

Only groups that have power can threaten to use force and the threat itself is power. Power is the ability to employ force, not its actual employment. Power is always successful; when it is not successful, it ceases to be power.

Power thus symbolises the force that may be applied in any social situation and supports the authority that is applied. “Power is thus neither force nor authority but it makes both force and authority possible.”-Robert Bierstedt.

Weber’s Views on Power:

According to Demerath and Marwell, Weber, an authority on “power and authority”, saw power more as a property of organisations and organisational roles than an attribute of individuals as such. This relationship between power and organisations, throws light on three theoretical innova­tions:

Firstly, Weber provided rich and abundant demonstration that power relationships are not restricted to the realm of politics, or the state but pervade the whole of everyday human relationship.

Secondly, Weber pointed out “a conception of power involving only coercion or force is all too narrow; it misses the subtlety and variety entailed in its other forms”. Thirdly, Weber showed that it is very important “to understand the attitudes of the followers as well as the leaders in any organisational setting since the relationship between them is neither automatic join unchanging’. An explanation of this third point would take us to a discussion of Weber’s use of the term “authority” and its types.