Social and political power is the ability to influence the behaviour of people.
Sources of power
- Delegated authority (e.g. authority) (seen as legitimate power)
- Social class
- Resources (e.g money, property, food)
- Personal or group charisma (Personality)
- Ascribed power (acting on perceived or assumed abilities)
- Expertise (ability, skills)
- Persuasion (direct, indirect, or subliminal)
- Knowledge (granted or withheld, shared or kept secret)
- Force (violence, military might, coercion)
- Moral persuasion (including religion)
- Operation of group dynamics (such as public relations)
- Social influence of tradition (compare ascribed power)
- In relationships: domination/submissiveness
Tactics to gain and maintain power
In everyday situations people use a variety of power tactics.
Tactics include: Bullying, collaboration, complaining, criticizing, demanding, disengaging, evading, humuor, inspiring, manipulating, negotiating, socializing, and supplicating.
Erica Grier: Agressive (force) v. Manipulative (persuasion)
Tactics can be classified along three different dimensions:
— Softness: Soft or hard (direct or indirect)
Soft tactics take advantage of the relationship between person and the target. They are more indirect and interpersonal (e.g. collaboration, socializing, diplomacy).
Hard tactics are harsh, forceful, direct, aggressive.
Hard tactics are not more powerful than soft tactics. In many cases, fear of social exclusion can be a much stronger motivator than some kind of physical punishment.
— Rationality: Rational or nonrational
Rational tactics use of reasoning, logic, and sound judgement
Nonrational tactics use on emotion and misinformation.
— Laterality: Unilateral or bilateral
Bilateral tactics involve both the powerful and weaker parties working together (e.g collaboration and negotiation)
Unilateral tactics are tactics without participation of the other parties.
(e.g. disengagement and fait accompli.)
Five bases of power
French and Raven argue that there are five significant categories
— Legitimate power (positional power)
Power due to position and duties within an organization (formal authority)
— Referent power
The power or ability of individuals to attract others and build loyalty. A person may be admired because of specific personal trait. The admirer desires to identify with these personal qualities, and gains satisfaction from being an accepted follower. (e.g. nationalism, patriotism, religion)
This is the second least obvious power, after legitimate power, but the most effective.
Advertisers have long used the referent power of sports figures for products endorsements, for example.
When someone that is likable, yet lacks integrity and honesty, rises to power, they can abuse their power for personal gain.
— Expert power
Power deriving from the skills or expertise.
This type of power is usually limited to the particular area in which the expert is trained and qualified. The views of experts are highly valued and, as such, experts are trusted and respected.
— Reward power
Power derived from the ability to give rewards (e.g. benefits, time off, desired gifts, promotions or increases in pay or responsibility).
If others expect that you’ll reward them for doing what you want, there’s a high probability that they’ll do it.
This type of power is ineffective if abused. Abusers can become pushy or quick to reprimand poor performance.
When available rewards run out, power is lost or weakens. Rewards often need to get bigger each time if they’re to have the same motivational impact. Overuse also lessens their effectiveness.
— Coercive power:
Application of negative influences (which are carried out or threatened)
Coercive power tends to be the most obvious but least effective form of power as it builds resentment and resistance from the people who experience it.
— Toffler: Three main kinds of power are:
- Violence (can only be used negatively, to punish)
- Wealth (can be used both negatively, e.g. by withholding money, and positively, e.g. by advancing/spending money)
- Knowledge (can be used in negative and positive ways, as well as a transformative way, e.g. sharing knowledge on agriculture to ensure that everyone is capable of supplying himself and his family of food)
Toffler argues that the very nature of power is currently shifting. Throughout history, power has often shifted from one group to another; however, at this time, the dominant form of power is changing. During the Industrial Revolution, power shifted from a nobility acting primarily through violence to industrialists and financiers acting through wealth. …. Today, a The Third Wave (Toffler) of shifting power is taking place with wealth being overtaken by knowledge.
— Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld: power is the ability to unilaterally alter rights.
— Origins of power
Tarnow: A leader’s power comes from how the group responds to to the leader’s commands. If the group conforms, the leaders power is enhanced. If the group doesn’t conform, the leader’s power over an individual is nil.
Gene Sharp: Power does not originate from those in power but from subjects of the state. A political regime maintains power because people accept and obey its dictates, laws and policies.
Powerful people are also more likely to take action.
Researchers have found that powerful people are three times as likely to first offer help to a “stranger in distress” (Bystander effect)