Power can be defined as the ability to influence another person or a group in order to make them act according to his/her desires. Power can also be exerted to prevent others from influencing him. The people, who has control over limited resources tend to have more power than the rest. This causes asymmetry in the relationships between people. Power creates a relationship of subordination and superordination between people. Inequality of resources leads to inequality of power. If there is no equality in the control of limited resources, the power in the relationship doesn't exist.
Coser described two major traditions in the conceptualization of power. The first tradition explains power as the imposition of one's will over another person or group. The second one focuses on the disposal of collectivities using power in order to use these things to attain their goals. The first one is similar to Max Weber's approach towards power, and the second tradition is similar to Talcott Persons's. Gerth and Mills opined that the power is just the probability for the obedience, one gets from other people. They explain the reasons may rest upon fear, loyalty, lack of energy to resist, circumstances at that time and the rational calculations of advantage.
Some scholars like Mills defined power as a 'zero-sum' concept. They consider power as a mutually exclusive manner, that means if one person wins, another person automatically loses. They opined that power can be possessed only by one person or a group. Some other Scholars like Talcott Parsons define power as a 'non-zero-sum' concept. In their view, both the parties share power and both will gain, like the share holders. In this view, power is defined in a mutually inclusive manner.
Sources of power :-
There are many sources for power. Several scholars have identified different sources of power based on their own perceptions. Based on the observations of notable scholars, the main sources are Resources and Property, Personality, Number of people, skills and knowledge, media, coercive force and organization.
- Resources and Property :- Resources is considered as the most important attribute of power as most of the powerful persons has control over the limited resources. The possession of property allows people to acquire anything they want and thereby making others to submit to them.
- Personality :- Personality means mind, morality, physique and competence one possesses. Personality has the ability to persuade and influence others.
- Number of people :- Numbers of people is one of the important sources of power. The larger number can always wield power over the comparative small number of people, even if both the groups have almost same resources. This is clearly seen in the elections in the present society.
- Skills and Knowledge :- Skills and abilities allow the people to provide services to those, who need it. It results in service providers having advantage and power over the people, who make use of their services. If they know how to use other forms of power, knowledge becomes power.
- Media :- Everything written and shown in mass media has great impact on readers and viewers. Media has the ability to control information, so is the great source of power. As there is power, media can influence and manipulate people.
- Coercive force :- Coercion force can be used by a person or a group to threaten others to make them act according to his/her desires. Coercive force can be of physical, mental or other form. People opt for submission to the coercive power possessor out of fear of punishment or fear of loss of their freedom or any other reason. The threats could be real or imaginary perception.
- Organization :- The people or institutions, who are well organised have more power than those, who are unorganized. Generally, the organization has the ability to influence a much larger number of unorganized people to attain the their goals and objectives. It also can have the access to coercive power as in the case of state. However, the organization's capacity depends on the quality and quantity of the resources it has.
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