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Theoretical Perspectives on Power


Power is defined as strength or the capacity to control. In sociology it is described as the ability of an individual or group to fulfil its desires and implement its decisions and ideas. According to Max Weber power is a chance of man or men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action .For Weber ,power is an aspect of social relationships.It refers to the possibility of imposing one’s own will upon the behavior of another person.Power is present in social interactions and creates situations of inequality since the one who has power imposes it on others.Weber suggested that there is fixed amount of power in a social situation.Therefore someone holds it ,some others do not.This view is known as constant sum concept of power.The impact of power varies from situation to situation.On the one hand it depends on the capacity of the powerful individual to exercise power .On the other hand it depends upon the extent to which it is opposed or resisted by others.He says that power can be exercised in all walks of life. Weber discussed two contrasting sources of power – power that is derived from constellation of interests that develop in a formally free  market. An established system of authority that allocates the right to command and the duty to obey.Talcott Parsons views that power is employed in the furtherance of sectional interests.He regards power as something possessed by the society as a whole and power is generalized facility or resource in the society.It is the capacity to mobilise the resources of the society for the attainment of goal for which a general public commitment has been made. The greater the efficiency of a social system for achieving the goals defined by its members , the more the power that exists in that society.This view is sometimes known as variable sum concept of power since power is not seen as fixed or constant. It is a variable in the sense that it can increase or decrease.

Marxian analysis of power provides a radical alternative to Parsons approach.It rejects the view that power is societal resource held in trust and directed by those in authority for the benefit of all. Instead power is seen to be held by a particular group in society at the expense of rest of the society.This is a constant sum concept since a net gain in power of the dominant group represents a net loss in power in rest of the society.Dominant groups use power to further their own interest which goes against those who are subject to their power.From the Marxian perspective the source of power in society lies in the economic infrastructure and gradually  the power of the ruling class extends beyond specific economic relations and pervades the entire super structure.