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POWER AND POLITICS:
NATURE & FORMS
POWER
(The fuel of politics.)
The ability to make, or to influence the making of,
those binding decisions
Struggle for power
Distribution of power: how fair? how equal? how effective?
Balance of power
Great power, superpower, hyperpower
A powerful leader
Can you measure it?
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“…Power is the ability to affect the actions or ideas of
others, despite resistance. It is thus a dynamic process,
not a static possession, that pervades all areas of social
life”.
(from Marvin Olson and Marvin Marger, Power in Social
Organizations)
“Power, in one useful sense, is a relation between two or
more human wills, in which one will can for some
purposes effectively control the other will or set of wills.
The idea of control implies the possibility of freedom from
control (of independence), and hence of regret at loss of
independence (at succumbing to alien control).
(John Dunn, The Cunning of Unreason. Making Sense of Politics,
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Basic Books, 2000, p.75)
• INFLUENCE – use of power (or power exertion) with an uncertain
outcome
• CONTROL – use of power with a more or less certain outcome
• DOMINATION – structured, stable patterns of power
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TYPES OF POWER
POLITICAL POWER – control of, or influence on, the state,
ability to make, or influence, political decisions
ECONOMIC POWER – control of economic assets
MILITARY POWER – ability to wage war
– or to compel others through
intimidation or deterrence
These forms of power interact in many ways.
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CHARACTERISTICS OF POWER
1. AN INTERACTIVE PROCESS
(you have to have someone to have power over)
2. POTENTIAL or ACTIVE
3. A PURPOSEFUL ACTIVITY
4. PROMOTIVE (Do it!) or PREVENTIVE (Don’t do it!)
5. BALANCED or UNBALANCED (“Absolute power corrupts
absolutely” – Lord Acton). Democracy (ideally) as
balanced power
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FORMS OF SOCIAL POWER
1. FORCE – ability to compel through punishment or
reward
a.utilitarian – “let’s make a deal, or else…”
b.coercive – “you are under arrest”
c.persuasive – “it is really in your own
interest to obey”
2. DOMINANCE – ability to compel on a regular,
systematic basis. “They have the power,
we can’t do anything but obey”
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3. AUTHORITY – power that is seen as just and
lawful.
Power which is voluntarily granted by those who submit to it.
LEGITIMATE power
TYPES OF LEGITIMACY (Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation)
•TRADITIONAL – based on tradition, established beliefs or values
(example: rule of dynasties, power of the church)
•LEGAL-RATIONAL – based on formal arrangements (rules, laws,
constitutions). The main type practiced in contemporary politics
•CHARISMATIC*– based on the extraordinary personal qualities of
a leader, or on the influence of an idea or a cause
*from ancient Greek word “charisma”, meaning “gift”
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4. ATTRACTION – the power of appeal, ability to
influence others by making a positive impression on
them.
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Information as a power resource
• The Information Revolution
• The Information Age
• The new role of information in our lives – in our
economy, social relations, politics.
• What’s new? The data flow permeates the world. It
always has.
• The issue is the information (data, knowledge)
produced by humans
• This has increased massively
• Due to the creation of information technologies
• Decode and reprogram nature
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• How do we use information? That is the2017-05-13
question
 Access to information
 Management of information (using it intelligently)
 Control of information
 Controlling people through their minds
 Values, ideas, the daily information flow
 Religion, education, propaganda, mass media
 The power of discourse (Foucault)
 The information battleground: how controllable are we?
 Can you fool all the people all the time?
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EXERCISE OF POWER
(FOUR STEPS!)
1. POSSESSING or having ACCESS to RESOURCES
-tangible, like money, property, goods, people,
weapons,
-or intangible, like information, skills, roles, legitimacy,
reputation, appeal
2. COMMITTING resources to a particular situation
3. CONVERTING committed resources into power action
4. OVERCOMING RESISTANCE
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SO, WHERE DOES POWER COME FROM, ULTIMATELY?
Mao Zedong: “Political power comes from the barrel of a
gun”
Holy Book: “The power that worketh in us”
Power is produced by social cooperation. Ultimately, it is a
collective product. We create power by acting together.
The problem is that this product is usually grabbed by the few
and used at the expense of, or downright against, the many.
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