Home >> Political Processes >> Power


Power implies the ability of an individual or a group to influence or change the behavior of other individuals or groups. Weber defines power as the chance of a man or a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action. Power is an aspect of social relationships.

An individual or a group does not hold power in isolation. They hold it in relation to others. To say that power is relational is also to imply it is behavioral. For if power consists in an inter-relationship between two actors. Then that inter relationship can only be understood in terms of one actor's manifest behavior as affecting the manifest behavior of others. Further power is also situational. To know power one has necessarily to relate it to a specific situation or a specific role and an actor's power in one particular situation or role may vary from that in another.

Weber's concept of power implies that those who hold power do so at the expense of others. It suggests that there is a fixed amount of power and therefore if some hold power others do not. This view is sometimes known as constant-sum concept of power.Talcott Parsons rejects this view and sees power as something possessed by society as a whole. According to him power is a generalized facility or resource in the society. In particular it is a capacity to mobilize the resources of the society for the attainment of goals for which a general public commitment has been made. In this sense the amount of power in society is measured by the degree to which collective goals are realized. Thus greater the efficiency of a social system for achieving the goals defined by its members more the power that exists in society. This view is sometimes known as variable -sum concept of power, since power in society is not seen as fixed or constant. Instead it is variable in the sense that it can increase or decrease. Alvin Gouldner has defined Power as among other things the ability to enforce one's moral claims. The powerful can thus conventionalize their moral defaults. According to David Lockwood power must not only refer to the capacity to realize one's ends in a conflict situation against the will of others, it must also include the capacity to prevent opposition arising in the first place.